Williams FW19 Renault
Team: Williams F1
Designers: Adrian Newey / Patrick Head (TD), Gavin Fisher (CD), Geoff Willis (CA)
Drivers: Jacques Villeneuve (3), Heinz-Harald Frentzen (4)
The Rothmans Williams Renault team unveiled its 1997 car at its old factory in Didcot, Oxfordshire, on January 31. This Williams marks the end of an era for the team in several ways. It is the last one launched at Didcot since the team moved to its now factory at Grove during 1996. On top of that, it is the last of a series of successful Williams cars to be powered by a Renault engine as the manufacturer decided to leave the sport at the end of the year.
Despite some setbacks during development, the FW19 was a highly competitive car that powered Jacques Villeneuve to his World Championship title after a thrilling decider at Jerez with Michael Schumacher. Villeneuve managed to score 7 wins but the team did not score a 1-2 finish for the first time since 1991. Most of this was due to the lack of form of Frentzen who struggled with his setup all through the year. He scored a single win and finished 2nd in the driver's championship after Michael Schumacher was stripped off his second place due to his deliberate collision with Villeneuve in the final race.
When Williams unveiled their FW19, it was clear that this was the last of its cars to enjoy the design input of Adrian Newey. Newey effectively stopped development on the car in November 1996 as he was under legal dispute with his team. After having designed all cars since the FW14, the Englishman tried to get out of his contract - that ran up until 1999 - and instead accept an appealing offer made by McLaren. As of that moment, Patrick Head has been in charge of the design group with Geoff Willis acting as chief aerodynamicist and Gavin Fisher as senior designer.
The FW19 was an evolutionary development of the FW18 in which Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve dominated the 1996 season. The new car featured a more compact transverse gearbox package. The lower crankshaft of the Renault engine enabled the 20 Williams engineers to lower the transmission and design a more compact solution which in turn allowed for a better aerodynamic package at the rear end of the car. The team also developed an extensively revised cooling system to decrease drag induced by the cooling system.
Contrary to the evolutionary approach of the chassis and despite Renault's departure of F1 at the end of 1997, the brand new RS9 was a completely different power unit to the RS8 and basically to all Renault V10 engines since 1988. The v-angle has been widened to 71 degrees rather than the 67-degrees which Renault has always used. Thanks to the new approach, the new engine was 27mm lower than its predecessor with the centre of gravity dropping 14mm. The change has also meant that 11kgs has been saved in weight on the engine alone.
The new engine quickly proved reliable and powerful, partially thanks to Williams running it in an interim FW18B during the winter tests. According to Dudot the power curve is also a lot smoother, which gives the drivers more power to work with. At its inaugural race, the engine was reported to top 740 bhp at 17,000 rpm.
Patrick Head commented at the launch: "The new Williams-Renault FW19 very much follows the design philosophy of the FW17 and FW18. It would be silly to tear that up and throw it out of the window for something new given the success that the previous cars have enjoyed. What we have tried to do with the FW19 is to build on the design and incorporate regulations changes and the new Renault RS9 engine into it. The new engine is much smaller and therefore is mounted lower in the car. This gives the whole car a much lower centre of gravity as it means that all the engine ancillaries can be mounted lower in the car as well. We have a new gearbox which is along the same lines as the present transverse unit but it is more compact than previously. These changes mean that we have been able to make aerodynamic changes to the rear bodywork so that it has fewer lumps and bumps."
"The chassis itself is a bit better than last year. We have worked to make it lighter and simpler to work with. We took on a couple of new aerodynamicists after we lost Egbahl Hamidy to Stewart at the start of last year. They worked on the FW19 project with Adrian Newey. Since his departure the chief aerodynamicist has been Geoff Willis."
"The programme was delayed for probably a couple of weeks in the middle of last season because in April we moved our half-scale windtunnel from the old Williams factory in Didcot to our new facility in Grove. The tunnel had to be put back together again and it look a little bit longer to re-commission than we had anticipated it would."
"We did a lot of aerodynamic work with the engine air intake. Quite a lot of people last year had problems with this - the air getting to engine was disrupted by the driver's helmet and that cost horsepower. The Ferrari drivers, for example, had to drive with their heads to one side - so we spent a bit of time studying that and we have produced a quite different solution to the problem. It is visibly different and we think it is much more effective."
"The other area where we did a lot aerodynamic work was with the winglets at the rear of the car. Having to take these off reduced the performance of the car quite a bit because the winglets we used last year were actually super-efficient, because of the interaction of vortices with the rear wing. Having to lower these has reduced the performance of the car and we have been trying to find ways to get that performance back."
"From a structural point of view it was also very interesting to have to integrate a rear impact structure - to take into account the new regulations - into the car. The chassis has to be able to absorb the same impact (780kg at 12 metres per second) as the nose. That is a pretty major change, having to build something which can absorb such an impact without being able to build such a considerable structure as the nose. It was a very interesting exercise."
Front suspension: Inboard torsion bar, operated by pushrod bellcrank
Rear suspension: Inboard coil springs, operated by pushrod bellcrank
Suspension dampers: Williams/Penske
Wheel Diameter: front: 13 in, rear: 13 in
Wheel rim widths: front: 11.5 in, rear: 13.7 in
Brake pads: Carbone Industrie
Brake discs: Carbone Industrie
Brake Calipers: AP
Steering: Williams (power-assisted)
Fuel tanks: ATL
Battery: RS Components
Gearbox: Williams/Komatsu, six-speed transverse semi-automatic
Clutch: AP (hand-operated)
Wheelbase: 113.8 in/2890 mm
Track: front: 65.7 in/1670 mm, rear: 63.0 in/1600 mm
Formula weight: 600 kg including driver
Fuel capacity: 124 litres
Type: Renault RS9A and RS9B
No. of cylinders/vee angle: V10 (71°)
Sparking plugs: Champion
Electronics: Williams/Magneti Marelli