Why it matters to you
Big rule changes are in store for F1 in 2017 and the Williams FW40 shows how they are impacting car design.
Formula One is introducing sweeping changes to car design for the 2017 season and Williams is the first out of the gate with a revamped car.
As the first 2017-season car unveiled, the Williams FW40 debuts the new look of F1. This season, F1 cars are longer and wider, with bigger front and rear spoilers, and generally greater bodywork area. This, along with fewer restrictions on the shapes of individual body components, allows designers to create more aerodynamic downforce, which pushes the car into the track and creates more grip.
The new design rules are accompanied by new tires from Pirelli, the sole tire supplier for F1. Tires are now much wider, and Pirelli was asked to create a setup that would not permanently lose its maximum grip after being exposed to a certain amount of heat. This prevents drivers from running flat out in previous seasons because doing so would cause the tires to overheat and become useless.
All of these changes are meant to make F1 more exciting. The new tires and car design rules are supposed to make cars faster, although F1 will stick with the current hybrid-powertrain formula employed since 2014, with similar amounts of power as previous seasons. The longer, wider look is also supposed to be more appealing although, as the Williams FW40 demonstrates, those changes can only go so far. The car is still a mess of aerodynamic ducts and flaps, with a rather unfortunate-looking nose. In 2017, Williams will continue to use powertrains Mercedes-Benz powertrains.
The ‘FW’ in FW40 represents the initials of team owner and founder Sir Frank Williams, while the ’40’ denotes the 40th anniversary of the team’s first F1 season. Williams is one of the most well-regarded teams in F1, with nine championships to its credit. Like most teams without full backing from an automaker, though, the British outfit has struggled in the modern, high-cost era of F1. It still finished a respectable fifth in the constructor standings last year, out of 11 teams.
For 2017, Felipe Massa will postpone his retirement and return to Williams alongside rookie Lance Stroll. Masha planned to retire at the end of last season, but was coaxed back after Williams’ other experienced driver, Valtteri Bottas, jumped ship for the Mercedes factory team. Bottas replaces reigning F1 champ Nico Rosberg, who announced his retirement just days after clinching the title.