Williams design for rule, not exception

To Formula 1 anoraks, this news isn’t anything new but if you are a newer fan of the sport, then this concept will help understand how some teams approach their chassis design and why they do well on some circuits and not others.

We’ve (both Paul and I) on this issue several times in our race review podcasts. A team doesn’t bet all its design chips on a short circuit. Some cars do better on slower speed tracks than others and that’s just the nature of their chassis and aerodynamic design. Red Bull tend to be very good on slow and medium speed tracks but when sheer horsepower and shove in the back of the car is in demand, they are not as quick.

Williams is a team that tends to focus on the high speed circuits as team performance guru Rob Smedley says:

“We always correlate well with the higher the speed of the circuit, the higher the average speed,” said Smedley.

“That always plays into where we have developed this car and where we will continue to develop it.

“We think it gives us more benefit than developing down to efficiency levels of Monaco and Singapore, places like that.

“You have to accept when you come to places like Monaco, they are not going to be the prettiest places for Williams.

“But when we go to Canada, Silverstone, Austria, places like that, obviously we would hope to benefit to get nearer to the Ferraris and Red Bulls and take the challenge to them.”

Then there are teams who seem to do well at just about every circuit like Mercedes. They indeed do well but they do have their weaknesses too. Mercedes were challenged at Monaco and it will be interesting to see if they face the same issue at Singapore too.

As a team, you’re designing for the rule, not the exception and Williams is doing just that. It used to be that Force India were definitely a high speed chassis but in recent years, they’ve become more competitive and medium speed and even slow speed tracks.

It’s an interesting thing to look for each race weekend and for newer fans who may be unclear as to why some do better than others at different track, this is one part of that equation—a large part of it in fact.


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jiji the cat

I think merc will be challenged at Baku before Singapore.
If I was designing a car I would probably look at the average speed and downforce needed over the entire season and go with that. But hey, I’m not a designer what would I know.

Paul KieferJr

So, why is it that a team never designs for all possibilities? Can’t you max out everything?


Lack of funding. If you have unlimited resources (Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull) then it is possible to have people looking at all possibilities, but that still doesn’t mean that they get if right. For a team having to work within a comparatively restricted budget (everyone else),they have to select the areas which will give the best returns.


2X on Funding. Also, Consider that engineering is always an exercise in compromise. The more money you spend, the less compromise you have to accept. But it is also true that talent is no different than money in that regard. With limits on development, they real value in the Newey’s of the world is not just that they are brilliant in one area or another, but that they have a knack for focusing the limited resources so that they can be used to affect the best result. It is also true that certain technologies will always favor one approach or… Read more »

Clayton Brown

It would be interesting for a team like Manor (who are last all the time anyway) to actually design for the exception and not the rule. If Manor could score a top 5 at Monaco, Singapore, and Baku that might be a better approach than drawing dead the whole year anyway.


Manor doesn’t have the budget, or engineering staff to build a top five car for any track. It’s kind of puzzling that they exist at all. Sometimes I wonder…why?