Why Williams wants nothing more than a boring F1 practice in France – Motorsport.com

A combination of mixed weather practice at the British Grand Prix, a start-line crash for Alex Albon, and then the sprint format in Austria, has left it unable to run through the normal baseline checks it would normally do for a such a major car change.
Two normal race weekends would have given it six free practice sessions to devote as much time as it wanted for those. As it heads to France, it hasn’t been able to devote any time at all to what it needed to do.
That is why, as it finally has enough parts to run its new update on both Albon and Nicholas Latifi at this weekend’s French GP, a dry standard Friday run of checks would be the best possible outcome.
As Williams head of vehicle performance Dave Robson explains: “There’s definitely a bit of a reset. You’ve got to go through that phase where you’ve got to check that it’s behaving like the wind tunnel and simulation say it should, in terms of where you want to pitch the ride heights or anything else that affects effects the airflow.
“Ideally, we would have done that quite methodically and objectively at FP1 at Silverstone, if it hadn’t been wet.
“It would have been a pretty boring session, but we’d have collected the data, compared it to the simulations and then we would hopefully have been quite quickly up to speed with it. We didn’t get a chance to do that.
“We then chose not to do it in P2 at Silverstone, as we chose just to suck it and see, and obviously in Austria we didn’t do it in P1 because we had all the race prep work to do.
“We’ll probably have to do some of that in France, and then hopefully we can make some more rapid progress.”
While the upgraded Williams has shown decent flashes of speed when it has been unleashed, and Albon nearly got through to Q3 at the Austrian GP, the team still is unsure about just how much of an improvement the new package has delivered.
Alex Albon, Williams FW44
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
“It’s still hard to quantify,” added Robson. “Silverstone was difficult. In Austria, with just that one practice session and quite a lot of race preparation homework to get on with, we didn’t do as much of the measurement work as we would have liked.
“There’s signs of it showing promise and some good feedback from Alex. But I think we’re not there yet in terms of understanding how to get the most out of it.”
Albon said in Austria that he felt the new Williams was more ‘peaky’, which in effect means it is producing its best performance in a quite narrow setup window.
While that does not seem an ideal characteristic, Robson is far from alarmed and reckons it is just a consequence of a better performing car not being fully tuned at the moment.
“I think, with the aerodynamics, the harder you push them that naturally happens. I’m hopeful that with a little bit more work on the mechanical side of things to complement the aero, we can dial some of that out.
“But I think some of it is just going to be inevitable, and it’s just going to have to be absorbed into his driving style.”
Ultimately what Williams is after from the new car is both a step forward in pace now, and a better platform on which to target its longer term ambitions in to 2023. Robson says there are three different improvements that the team is exploring.
“It is designed to be better balanced. And I think it’s showing signs of that, but there probably is still a bit more work we need to do on the mechanical side of things to optimise what we’ve now got aerodynamically,” he said.
“Then, I think it’s a better aero package in terms of downforce and drag. And then the third thing is, which we are yet to prove, but this is where the work is going on in the tunnel, we think it is a much better platform for future development.
“So they are the kind of three things that we’re aiming for. I think there’s signs of all three, but quantifying them yet, we haven’t been able to do.”
And that’s why a boring Friday at Paul Ricard, to get that proper baseline of understanding in place, is so important for Williams right now.
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