Q&A with Ed Wood, Williams Chief Designer With the 2009 technical regulations being so different to those from 2008, the design department at each team is more crucial than in recent years past. An interview with the team's own Chief Designer, Ed Wood, discovers how the dramatic changes have affected the normal design schedule, what the team is doing in preparation for the upcoming season and most importantly how the team is actually doing with development of the 2009 package.
So, Ed, when does the design process on one car end and another start? “It’s dependent on whether there are significant regulation changes from one season to the next and, to a lesser extent, your position in the championship. In the latter half of the season, the teams are always reviewing how much resource to put into developing the existing car as opposed to moving ahead with the new design.
In the last couple of years, in which regulation change was minimal, we tended to start work in earnest on the following year’s car in either April or May and we brought our last developments to the existing car late August/early September for the flyaways at the end of the year.”
What are the main areas of change for next season’s cars? “There are three significant changes, which include heavily revised aerodynamic regulations to bring about a reduction in downforce and make the wake of the leading car less detrimental to the performance of the chasing car. This is intended to bring about closer racing and encourage more overtaking. The most significant visual changes will be a lower and wider front wing, a reduction in many of the small aerodynamic devices at the front of the car and covering the rear bodywork, a smaller rear wing and a lower and shorter diffuser profile.
Secondly, there will be a return to slick tires next year which will recover some of the performance lost from the reduction in aerodynamic loads. Finally, the introduction of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) will allow a modest amount of braking energy to be recovered and used to give an 80hp power boost, controlled by the driver by means of a push button on the steering wheel.”
What impact are the new regulations having on the design process? “The process itself is not particularly different to previous years; there is the same type of interaction between aerodynamics, design and the stress office, just more of it given the very significant changes that are taking place. It has obviously been necessary to create a KERS design group and the combination of established Williams employees and new engineers is working extremely well. The biggest area of change in comparison to 2006 and 2007 is the winter test program as there are many more new systems to evaluate than in the previous couple of winters.”
Is the team on schedule with the development of the 2009 car, then? “Yes. We set out a fairly detailed development plan towards the end of 2007 when it was fairly clear what the major regulation changes for 2009 would be. This included certain performance objectives in terms of both aerodynamic and mechanical development and also a clear timetable for track testing key elements of the new technology. At this point in time, we are on plan with the aerodynamic targets and have brought new technologies to the track in line with our initial thinking.
At Jerez in September this included a new gearbox and rear suspension, an interim aerodynamic package incorporating the 2009 rear wing and diffuser and some core elements of our KERS system. All elements performed well and running those items early has been extremely valuable as we have been able to start winter testing with working aerodynamic characteristics that are similar to those expected for 2009.” Source: Williams F1
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