Radical is not a word used very frequently in Formula One these days, given the tightness of the rules, but the new contender that Sir Frank Williams hopes will make either Juan Pablo Montoya or Ralf Schumacher the 2004 world champion justifies the tag. You might also add the adjective ugly, for the new Williams-BMW FW26 is not the belle of the ball. But if it performs on the track there will be no shortage of suitors, and Williams must find one before Montoya heads for McLaren in 2005.
The new Williams breaks with tradition by employing a very short nose, the sides of which curve distinctively downwards like tusks to act as mounting points for the front wing. The team have embraced the so-called "twin-keel" chassis design, with separate lower front suspension pick-up points either side of the chassis, and the result is a very clean airflow over the front of the car.
"You cannot stand still or relax your development," said the chief designer, Gavin Fisher. "It will be immediately evident to onlookers that a high degree of innovative design has gone into the FW26. We were conscious that the inability to extract the full potential of the FW25 until well into the season was a significant contribution to our failure to win either championship in 2003. The earlier launch date for FW26 is a clear statement of our intent to be in a position to win from the first race onwards.
"There is a great deal of anticipation on our part about this new car. It is has challenged us throughout its development, and there is certainly a sense that the day that it runs for the first time will be more significant than launch days in previous years. All of the team members will be proud that they have made enormous efforts to push the performance of this car as far forward as possible, and that in doing so will have written the opening chapter in what will become a successful season."
Sir Frank Williams said: "Quite clearly Ferrari will be the team to beat at the beginning of the season and McLaren will be right with them. But the reality is that Ferrari's budget must be being trimmed. I hope we will be up there too."
Speaking of the need to replace Montoya, he added: "We are not giving the question of 2005 too much thought right now. We are alert, and that is quite normal. In the perfect world, if we build a great car, the phone will ring..."Reuse content