The BMW WilliamsF1 Team launched their 2005 campaign today with confirmation of their driver line-up and the unveiling of the Williams BMW FW27 at the Valencia circuit in Spain.
The team confirmed, that after an extensive evaluation process which commenced last November, that Nick Heidfeld would partner Mark Webber as a team race driver, while Antonio Pizzonia would assist with the development and progression of the FW27 as the team's official test driver.
The FW27 was unveiled to the media at 1200hrs CET and made its public track debut at 1500, before commencing its first full test at the Spanish track which is schedule to conclude on February 4, 2005.
On its debut, BMW WilliamsF1 Team Principal Frank Williams said, "The BMW WilliamsF1 Team's hopes and aspirations are embodied in this car, and the driver line-up we have announced today. Ahead of a new season, we are naturally cautious about our prospects, but equally are determined to be a strong force this year."
Explaining the developments of the FW27, Technical Director Sam Michael said, "This car reflects a philosophy of concentrating on the fundamentals. Our focus throughout the design cycle has been built around simple variables that affect performance, such as reducing weight and friction while increasing stiffness. As a consequence of focusing on these fundamentals, we have reverted to a single keel
configuration for the front suspension geometry. We have also been aggressive with our cooling, as witnessed by the extremely low engine bodywork and the large sidepod undercuts. Reliability is the final area we have been determined to pursue, and we have made significant progress, specifically with the gearbox which has been running on-track since November 2004 without problems."
Michael went on to explain the implications of the new rules which have influenced the design of the FW27. "The changes to the rules devised by the F1 Technical Working Group have fundamentally limited the expansion ratio of the air in the diffuser and reduced the ground effect of the front wing, the net result of which is a reduction of around 30% of downforce without reduction in drag. We have worked hard to recover as much lost downforce as possible, primarily via predictive means."
"Prediction, using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) was our main tool to assess the implications of the new rules, and to consider a wide range of potential solutions. Together with our partners at HP, we have scaled up our computational resource by a factor of three times, which means we are operating with a facility that ranks in the top 500 globally, and in the top 40 in the UK. We augmented our inhouse capability with the use of HP's Bristol Laboratories computer farm, which allows us to run computations using external resource at peak load times, such as during the new car design phase," explained Michael.
"As a consequence of all of this additional capability," continues Michael, "We ran almost 100% more aerodynamic models in CFD this year to investigate the optimal solutions under the new regs. Considering that each model contains around half a billion points of information, we have processed the equivalent of 70,000 volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica's simply to assess the aerodynamics of the FW27. We reduced our turnaround times, with post-processing times reduced to minutes as well as improving our accuracy. The CFD outcomes have allowed us to optimise solutions for front and rear wings, brake ducts and radiator ducts without fabrication or tunnel testing. It has been a major advantage in coping with the demands of the new rules."
"The computational resource has also significantly enhanced our structural analysis process, which used to be highly reliant on manual calculations and testing validation. Now we can model these highly complex parameters and integrate the design of crash structures in the car with the aerodynamic demands", he adds.
Michael continued, "The consequence of the application of advanced modelling together with a streamlining of tunnel experimentation has resulted in a distinctive profile to the FW27. "As the front wing has been lifted by 50mm, it has become more important to utilise the drooped wing section in the centre of the car. Additionally, as the rear wing has moved forward relative to the lower diffuser, the other devices around the rear wing must be optimised to ensure they are all working in harmony."
The other area of regulation change that has been significant is the restriction to one set of tyres to complete both qualifying and the race. Michael outlined the implications of this rule in the design of the FW27. "The BMW WilliamsF1 Team has won more races on Michelin tyres than any other team since their return to the sport, so we have worked closely on the implications of the new rules. Essentially, aerodynamics, weight transfer, mechanical balance and traction control are all slaves working to improve tyre performance. We have to find grip without destroying the tyres, and that challenge has become harder because of the new rules, but we are confident that we have made good headway over the winter," says Michael.
Rule changes have also fundamentally affected the engine design and BMW have been tasked with ensuring the P84/5 lasts for 1,500km, while spanning a variety of different tasks, including practice, qualifying and racing, all of which make their own specific demands on engine performance. Mario Theissen, the Director of BMW Motorsport explained the implications of the rules. "Now there is a tactical need to save engine life as far as possible. We have two options, by running for fewer laps or decreasing engine speed. The first option is not desirable, so during free practice, when the team is undertaking setup work and selecting tyres, we will limit the maximum engine speed."
Engines, however, will have to deliver maximum power for the qualifying session, and after the race, will still have to endure another full Grand Prix weekend before the unit can be replaced. "The penalty for an engine fault will be considerably tougher than for any other component," says Theissen. "Replacing the engine before first qualifying will result in a ten place demotion on the grid, and after qualifying, it is demotion to the back of the grid. Only if the driver fails to finish the race can the engine be replaced without penalty, so the environment will be very demanding in 2005. There is also a question mark in the new rules, as a driver may deliberately fail to finish a race in order to have the advantage of a new engine for the next GP," he says.
In order to prepare for the demanding new rules, BMW have concentrated on engine unit stability, minimising performance losses and making good any identified performance losses during the season development process. "The critical components are the moving parts that endure a high mechanical and thermal load, particularly the crankshaft drive and valve gear. Each of these has been redesigned
for a double life span, which normally means a bigger and heavier engine, costing speed and power. We have been meticulous to try and minimise these losses," says Theissen.
Reflecting on the rule changes, Theissen said, "In principle we support cost-cutting measures. But this was a radical and late change to the rules, which has caused significant extra development costs, rather than save money," he concluded.
After the initial laps of the FW27 on the Valencia circuit, team drivers Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld delivered their verdict on the new car. Mark Webber commented, "A huge amount of work has gone into the FW27 because of the new regulations on aerodynamics and tyres, and BMW have done plenty of work with the two-race engine. We have to look for consistency and reliability with both cars and it is going to be a tough season, but after the first runs, I am happy with the car. The guys have done a good job, but I am sure we will find plenty to do in February to get ready."
For his part Heidfeld reflected, "The FW27 looked great on stage this morning and it felt the same this afternoon on the track. I have only driven a couple of laps so far, but already it feels familiar. Hopefully a strong preparation for the season ahead starts now."