The Dangers of a Late Car Launch

With Williams announcing they would be launching their 2013 challenger, the FW35, at the second pre-season test in Barcelona, memories return of Mercedes in a similar situation last year.

In 2012, Mercedes used the first test in Jerez as a shakedown of sorts with the new Pirelli tires for that season. Using their 2011 car, they clocked hundreds upon hundreds of miles, supposedly gathering useful data about the tricky rubber.

Tire wear had been one of the niggling issues for the Mercedes team in 2011, and they believed if they could run the 2012 tires on a stable car that they understood, they would gain more from the test. What Mercedes didnt know, however, was that 2012 would prove to be one of the worst years for the team in terms of points, and the worst year in terms of their tire performance. Early-race wear often thwarted any chance of a decent result when the car had the speed to merit one.

This painful irony of testing tires specifically, only for them to prove their most significant setback is one that the Brackley squad will be desperately trying to avoid in 2013.

Williams is in a similar predicament this year as Merc was last year. They will be launching the FW35 in Barcelona, while attending the Jerez test with an updated version of the 2012 car. In a team statement Williams confirmed they would “test a number of key development parts in preparation of the launch of the FW35”.

The problems that Mercedes faced in 2012 was a fairly significant altering of the exhaust regulations. Blown diffuser technology was ousted for the 2012 season to make way for more conventional means of exhaust flow on the cars. These exhaust regulation changes made testing the 2011 car at Jerez a bit silly. The tire performance would be altered heavily and correlation would be difficult between the 2011 and 2012 cars.

With much more stable exhaust regulations in place for 2013, Williams doesn’t face the same sort of predicamentas Mercedes did last year. Although, this doesn’t guarantee success. I don’t know specifically what Williams will be testing at Jerez, for obvious reasons. There may be updates involvng tire performance and there may not be. Williams does need to be wary of the possibity of failure. There is a lesson to be learned from Mercedes’ experience in 2012. Not all plans go according to expectations.

Maybe Williams will be the car to beat come March, maybe not. What is certain is that The Grove outfit will be one to watch in the coming season.

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