Williamsf1 BMW FW26 Unveiled
January 5, 2004 | 8:56 A.M. EST
"I have tested some of the new elements of the FW26," commented Schumacher, "And individually, they all have been a real step forward, whether the engine, the new gearbox, or all the other smaller but none the less significant components. So I am really fascinated to see how all of this works together, and it would be fair to say that my expectations are very high."
Schumacher's enthusiasm was matched by his team-mate, Juan Pablo Montoya. "We had a great deal of anticipation about last year's car, and it turned out to be justified anticipation. This season, there is an even greater degree of expectation about the potential of this car, and the great advance the team has made is to bring the whole validation process forward by a significant amount. I hope the car will be quick from the off, but now we have the benefit of a clear two month test programme in Spain before the first race."
No sooner than the FW26 had been unveiled than the commentary about its radical treatment of the front design profile began. The FW26's Chief Designer, Gavin Fisher commented, "It will be immediately evident to onlookers that a high degree of innovative design has gone into the FW26."
The FW26 features a distinctively short nose cone, with the front wing main plane and associated assemblies mounted on extended 'tusks'. The startling interpretation of the front profile has been conceived in tandem with a twin keel monocoque design, aiding air flow both under and over the front geometries of the car, and improving global aerodynamics right through to the rear wing of the FW26. The front profiles of the car are augmented by a narrower sidepod footprint, enabled by revised cooling packaging, all assisting aerodynamic performance.
The aerodynamics have been conceived under the supervision of the Chief Aerodynamicist, Antonia Terzi, working in tandem with the Chief Designer and WilliamsF1's structural design specialists to meet and exceed stringent structural requirements demanded by the new chassis concept, as well as the FIA’s crash test demands.
Prior to the car conducting its inaugural laps at the Valencia circuit, Fisher commented, "There has been a great deal of anticipation on our part about this new car. It has challenged us throughout its development and there is certainly a sense that today is a more significant launch day than in previous years."
Sam Michael, the team's Chief Operations Engineer explained the decision to launch the FW26 early in 2004. "In 2003 it became evident that we suffered performance-wise as a consequence of launching our car relatively late on in the winter. Refining the car took some time, and as a consequence of this (as well as other factors), we didn't win a race until Monaco, seven races into the year. The reason we are here unveiling the FW26 in order to bring our test programme forward really doesn’t need any more explaining," he said.
As well as visually marking a step change in aerodynamic treatment, the WilliamsF1 BMW FW26 also benefits from a complete sweep of new major sub assembly designs. At the heart of these changes is the all-new BMW P84 powerplant allied with a new gearbox and differential. BMW in Munich completed a rigorous design and validation process to comply with the new FIA regulations that have effectively doubled an engine’s lifespan to 800km. Implicitly, these new regulations would normally mean an increase in weight and packaging size, but BMW's engineers have worked energetically to ensure the most competitive solutions. "If an engine has to have a longer service life, especially the components that are highly challenged, mechanically and thermally, must be designed to be tougher. Bigger and heavier engines compromise power. Minimising these losses while still guaranteeing the increased endurance are the goals we have worked towards," explains BMW Director of Motorsport, Mario Theissen.
The BMW WilliamsF1 Team's sponsors have also played a critical role in the development of the FW26, not least Michelin in the perennial tyre development campaign, but also HP in the provision of a world-class hardware platform consisting of a cluster of Proliant DL360 servers which has played a major role in the predictive aerodynamic process to develop the radical geometries of the new car.
Petrobras too has worked hard to develop a new fuel for the 2004 season with properties to improve performance, reduce fuel consumption and, importantly, a new blend featuring specific additives to assist the engine to cope with the new regulations. Conceived and tested in Petrobras's Cenpes Research Facility and produced in the company’s Brazilian refineries, the new fuel will begin track testing during the P84's winter test period.
Following the FW26's launch, a major test programme with the new chassis will commence on Wednesday January 7th in Jerez until January 13th. The BMW WilliamsF1 Team Principal, Frank Williams said, "Our ambition can be nothing other than winning most races, steal Ferrari's crown and add another Championship title to the record. Having any less ambition at the start of the year would be wrong."
Juan Pablo Montoya left the garage at 14:40hrs and recorded 14 laps altogether on the 4.005 km circuit, before handing over the car to team-mate, Ralf Schumacher. The German started driving at 16:34hrs and completed a total of 3 laps.
"My first impression of the FW26 is very good," said Montoya. "The car doesn't feel a lot different from last year's, which is a very god start and I think we have an excellent potential car. I felt comfortable straight away and could push the car from the outset, so thanks us due to the team for having built a very promising car.
"In spite of the restrictions imposed by the new rules, which give you less drag and make the car more difficult under braking, everything feels just right. The dusty track conditions were not 100% ideal today and we only completed six hard laps, so I don’t want to sound too optimistic, but there isn’t a single area that doesn’t work. I am very, very pleased, I think this car has got a good future."
"It is always positive if the first day runs according to plan and I can say that the car feels good, perhaps similar to the FW25," said Schumacher. "I really have high expectations of the radical approach taken to this new car. Of course the roll out on launch day does not tell us much about the true performance of a new car and I only completed three laps. Basically it is all about installation laps and system checks, so it is far too early to make serious comments about the FW26."
The team will be now continuing its testing programme from 7th to 13th January in Jerez (Marc Gene all days except 10, Juan Pablo 7-10, Ralf Schumacher 10-13).
Technical specifications WilliamsF1 BMW FW26
Transmission: WilliamsF1 semi-automatic
Chassis: Carbon Aramid epoxy composite, manufactured by WilliamsF1
Cooling System: Water and oil radiators
Brakes: Carbon Industrie carbon discs and pads operated by AP calipers
Wheels: O.Z: 13 x 12 front, 13 x 13.7 rear
Cockpit Instrumentation: WilliamsF1 digital data display
Steering Wheel: WilliamsF1
Driver's Seat: Anatomically formed in carbon/epoxy composite material with Alcantara covering
Extinguisher Systems: WilliamsF1/Safety Devices
Front Track: Maximum allowance
Rear track: Maximum allowance
Weight: 605 kg including driver and camera