The Williams team surprised during this week's Barcelona in-season test by coming up with a very special rear wing. The wing, featuring an additional section ahead and above the usual rear wing flaps would be illegal to run in races this year, but it proved to be useful for the team in an attempt to find and remedy some of the weaknesses of this year's FW38. It was run for half a day by Alex Lynn, before Felipe Massa had it fitted on the car the entire second day of testing.
Contrary to reports, Williams have confirmed to F1Technical that this new wing was not designed to simulate higher downforce of 2017, but instead primarily aimed to improve this year's contender.
"The rear wing was to help gather data and a better understanding of the car's aero balance... It's not a prototype of a new wing", a spokesperson said. The latter part should be fairly obvious, as this 1994-style rear wing is entirely out of the current regulations. The first bit is interesting, and a closer look at the car quickly shows that Williams were indeed not looking at higher downforce.
There are quite a few pointers to see that higher downforce was not the target. First of all, the FW38 ran without a monkey seat, something that would be an easy addon, given that the monkey seat attachment was present on the pylon of the rear wing. The central section of the foremost flap also appears to be very neutral, and may just be in place to provide strength for the forward extension, given that the two flaps outward of the rear wing endplate are indeed aimed at generating downforce. This added downforce may be just enough to compensate for the partial opening of the DRS flap. Indeed, it's interesting to note that the upper flap of the rear wing was always slightly open when Williams ran this new wing.
Adding all this together, it is obvious that Williams were running this rear wing only to simulate a car with a more forward aero balance. The team did not want to reveal further details about why they were doing this test, but it may be that engineers have found other, more competitive cars may be running a more forward aero balance and wanted to try a few things out for themselves.
It's interesting to note that while running the special rear wing, the car was also fitted with additional monitoring equipment on the front wing, including a seemingly rigid link between the camera mounting and the front wing.
All things combined, it appears to have delivered quite a lot of information for the team, with Massa claiming the team learned a lot from it.
"We were able to learn a lot," the Brazilian said. "It is the first time we are doing these tests in the proper way, two days concentrating on things which we believe we need to work on the car, knowing where we are losing compared to other cars.
"It's a long project, it's not really things that tomorrow will be completely different specs in the car. I believe we are understanding things to make the car better."