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The 'absolutely enormous' changes that led to Williams' late FW46 track debut

Williams switched focus to the FW46 in the early months of 2023, so why is it one of the last to be revealed on track?

Williams FW46
To news overview © Williams Racing

Williams is the last team to reveal their true 2024 Formula 1 car, after running it for a shakedown in Bahrain ahead of pre-season testing.

The team has been quite cryptic over revealing the FW46 during the car launch season, having only offered a look at their livery for their launch earlier this month which officially took place in New York.

Only a select few members of the media were given a show car dressed in the livery, while the media pack featuring computer renders was also not the proper car.

So why is it so late? Williams switched focus to their 2024 car around March and April last year, so you would think it would be ready to turn a key instantly.

Team Principal James Vowles puts it down to the "absolutely enormous" changes to how the team has built the FW46.

Breaking outdated technology cycles

When Vowles joined Williams in February last year, he immediately started to unpick why the team has been lagging behind the competition.

One of these is investment into better equipment, which Vowles successfully lobbied for on behalf of Williams by getting F1 to increase the amount of Capital Expenditure that could be made for it to catch up to the infrastructure of Red Bull and Mercedes.

This has been embraced with the development of the FW46, but that also meant taking some of the risk that comes with starting those processes midway through a season.

"What we were doing with this car is pushing everything to the limits. To give you an idea, the chassis technology is different, some of the other technologies are quite different than what we've done before," Vowles told media, including RacingNews365.

"Those changes are enormous for an organisation, absolutely enormous. Some of those have challenged us to push ourselves beyond where we wanted to be. But in the case of what's happened overall I'm very, very happy.

"We simply can't do everything at the same time. You can't change what you're doing, break technology cycles, and put yourself in a much better performance situation without taking an enormous amount of risk."

Vowles: We've pushed ourselves to the limit

It's a far cry from where Williams were in 2019, when they rocked up late to testing with a car that had illegal front suspension components, bargeboards, and mirrors.

Vowles even suggested they could have ran their car at Silverstone for a shakedown, but they purposely prioritised a virtual test due to the winter conditions.

At Bahrain the weather is much more stable and gives teams a better reading for how their car performs. The other advantage is that they can use their filming days later on in the season.

"At Silverstone I have several feelings towards that. I've done it for a number of years and sometimes you get some really good things out of it," said Vowles.

"I'd much rather do virtual track testing and then bring the car to Bahrain where we can do that update. Furthermore, [we can] save that filming day for later in the year where, yeah we need footage, but we need some other questions or answers to be added.

“A bit of it is we've pushed ourselves to the absolute limits, a bit of it is actually I believe far more in doing other testing, if you'd like to call it that, and then use Bahrain as the opportunity to get started.”

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