Launch Season: Williams FW31

Williams-Toyota FW31

AT&T WilliamsF1 launched their new FW31-Toyota today in the pitlane at the Portimao circuit in Portugal in a somewhat underwhelming and understated ceremony. I guess the dull and dreary weather conditions didn’t help matters, yet compare it to the Renault one held just a few yards up the road very shortly afterwards, which saw more team personnel, more media, and much more colour – although when you see the colours chosen you may wonder if this is such a good thing.

To be honest though, the big glitzy launch never suited this down-to-earth team who much prefer to get on with the business of testing and racing. I like that. Full disclosure here: Williams are my favourite team and have been since I was a kid in the late ’80s, watching Nigel Mansell do his stuff. It hurts to see this former championship team near the back of the field simply because they fell out with BMW and couldn’t hook up with another manufacturer (except in a customer deal).

Still, the launch pics do look a little… well.. pathetic. It just doesn’t look professional. Sorry guys.

This car was launched in an interim test livery which is nearly identical to the one used this time last year, the only real differences being the names on the car. Despite losing some major Iceland-based backing after that economy tanked, as well as Lenovo (which most of us know as Hewlett Packard) and the Petrobras oil company of Brazil, the team insists it is on a solid financial footing for the next two years at least, and has secured increased support from Philips. The Dutch electronics giant previously used only its’ shavers section to sponsor the team, this has now increased to cover their whole ‘Consumer Lifestyle’ division. Williams now feature the Philips logo more prominently on the sidepods and rear wing. Other partners have stepped up their involvement too.

You can read the full announcement here.

I can’t find a shot of the FW31 taken from the same angle as the Ferrari, Toyota and McLaren photos I’ve posted, which is annoying because I was going for the ‘comparison’ thing. Thankfully F1Fanatic.co.uk has done a much better job of the side-by-side comparisons!

As a fan of Williams I am slightly concerned that on the face of it this looks like an enhanced 2008 car with new-style wings, whereas the likes of McLaren and Ferrari seem to be developing in a new direction with ultra-tightly packaged rear ends. This car isn’t so tightly packaged. It is much more so than their ’08 car, but not to the extent of the leading teams. I wonder if this is a result of Williams locking their ’08 car and switching to the ’09 car early on.

The one thing I believe Williams as as an advantage is its KERS system, as the team are believed to be the only one using a mechanically-based flywheel system. This is said to already be capable of exceeding the levels allowed in the regulations. Other teams are developing chemical systems which are more expensive, heavier and with a lower potential development limit. F1 teams are not chemists, after all. There is also the matter of disposing of the batteries and flying them around the world.

Williams say they may not run KERS until the aero and tyre development is more complete, as these are each worth seconds of lap time – KERS is only worth a few tenths of seconds. It is the pragmatic approach but I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to hit the ground running and have that few tenths anyway…

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