Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe says the FW41 is designed to offer a step change in performance rather than being an evolutionary development of last year’s car.
The new car was unveiled on Thursday night in London, and is the first to be launched since Lowe returned to the team from Mercedes early last year. With obvious differences to the aerodynamic approach – including significant changes to the barge board and sidepod area compared to 2017 – Lowe says the target is to make major gains this year.
“It’s a very difficult time of year for the engineers,” he said. “You kind of love it and hate it. You have the excitement of bringing out a new car and all the promise that will bring. But there is a lot of hard work, because [with] every car – no matter how successful – there are a lot of problems behind the scenes to get it into a state of being fit to race in Australia. So it’s a fairly frantic six weeks.
“Then on the other hand you’ve got the stress around performance. So you’ve done the best job you can. We’ve done that with the FW41. We feel we’ve made some really good steps there. We are trying to achieve an element of step change and not just a progression. We were two seconds or so per lap slower than the frontrunners last year and that’s something we would like to close up considerably, so we were looking for a step change and I hope we’ve delivered a strong element of that in this car.”
And Lowe is confident that the internal goals set out for the team have been achieved over the winter, but admits it remains to be seen if that will result in on-track performance.
“Broadly we’ve hit our targets. We’re always pushing to the end. We’ve got to that stage now where we’re finding things in the tunnel and they’re on that cusp of, can you get them to the first race or not? So we’re into that space at the moment, but broadly we’ve hit the performance targets that we’ve set internally.
“There are a couple of caveats to that. Firstly, were those targets ambitious enough? You don’t know. And secondly will those targets, will that performance, translate to the track itself with the real car? That remains to be seen.
“One of the things we can gauge ourselves on is on absolute performance. We’re very reluctant to say we want to come fifth or fourth or third or whatever it is, because there’s such great competition out there that you can’t predict what others will have done. But I think we’d really like to see a lap-time gain relative to the guys that were taking pole positions last year. So that’s how we will measure ourselves.”