Williams technical boss Paddy Lowe admits he has been surprised by how much innovation there is in Formula 1 this season, despite it being the second year of the current aerodynamic regulations.
Last season marked the introduction of a new set of rules that increased downforce levels and led to faster lap times. As part of those regulations, teams were allowed much more freedom around the bargeboards and sidepods, while the front wing became swept back and the rear wing lower and wider.
It is common for teams to converge in terms of their aerodynamic development directions the longer regulations are stable, but the Williams chief technical officer has noted major differences this season.
“Every team seems to have done a great job over the winter, there’s some great cars out there and most of them are going very well,” Lowe said. “I also see a lot of different innovations as well. There’s often talk about Formula 1 running out of new ideas or the cars being too much the same, but I see quite a lot of interesting, different ideas on the different cars, which is great. So what I think it’s going to lead to is a pretty close competition.
“In this period, we’re normally very busy. We have people trying to work out where we are, who is quick and who isn’t, and I think because it’s pretty close and we have a lot of variables with weather and tires you can’t really call it so accurately. So I think Australia will be very interesting to see where everyone lands.”
When asked if he was particularly talking about the bargeboard area on other cars when referencing the level of innovation, Lowe replied: “No, I think all over.
“You’ve got things like the Renault tailpipe solution, but a lot of different sidepod solutions. There’s not as much convergence as you might have expected in a regulation that certainly around power unit and cooling is now in its fifth year, and aerodynamics is second year. But that’s the game, to look at other ideas. You’re foolish to keep the blinkers on and stay always in your own channel.”
But Lowe doesn’t think the differences in cars will lead to a big spread of lap times, highlighting the battle for fourth place as particularly competitive.
“For the spectators, that could be great,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re unlikely to see much of a shift around in terms of the mixing of the top three and that midfield. That’s my prediction looking at the lap times – as noisy as they are at the moment – but I think there maybe a lot more variation.
“We’ll see the quality of drivers coming more into play as well, as a variable there. So we’re very excited to see how well Sergey [Sirotkin] and Lance [Stroll] can play in that space.”