As pre-season testing edges ever closer, the pieces of the Formula One 2016 puzzle are slowly falling into place. We now know the identities of the men who will be taking to the track when the curtain comes down on the new season on March 20, but what of the other 22 stars of the show, the cars themselves?
Renault F1 was ahead of the game in releasing official images of its new steed earlier this month and now the remaining dominoes on the grid are beginning to fall, beginning with the all-new FW38 Williams F1 car.
Third in the constructors’ championship for the past two seasons, long-serving team principle and F1 luminary Sir Frank Williams is under no illusion that repeating that success in 2016 will represent a significant challenge. Describing the team’s recent exploits as “a great achievement given the resources of those around us”, Williams is nevertheless wary of the threat posed by reinvigorated teams elsewhere in the paddock, notably at Red Bull, Force India and Renault.
The car tasked with holding off the opposition, as well as taking the fight to last year’s top two at Mercedes and Ferrari, will be the FW38, the latest in a long lineage of F1 racers stretching back to the 1975 FW01.
Once again driven by Mercedes power, the 2016 car retains the popular ‘Martini stripes’ livery that has adorned its two direct predecessors. Under the skin of the 2016 model, Williams chief technical director Pat Symonds insists that the team have worked hard to iron out persistent problems that saw the 2015 car underperform on lower-speed circuits.
“It is no secret that the low speed performance of the FW37 didn’t match its high speed performance, so a lot of time was spent looking into why this was and is subsequently making changes, which we hope will improve the situation.”
The car released this week ahead of pre-season testing is “by no means the final product” with upgrades expected to be ready in time for the opening round of the 2016 campaign in Australia.
Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas return for a third year in an unchanged Williams driver line-up. The Brazilian-Finnish duo has proved well-matched over the previous two seasons, managing a total of four podium finishes between them last year.
Consistency is a key ingredient in F1 success and on that basis alone the British team looks settled and well-placed for another strong campaign in 2016.
The 2016 season gets underway with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on 18-20 March.