Will Williams go for Porsche power?
May 25, 2010
There’s an interesting piece in the June edition of F1 Racing which suggests that Williams are less than happy with the performance of their Cosworth engine this year and are exploring a link up with Porsche.
It is clear that Williams are, so far, not delivering the kind of performance you would normally expect from the Grove based team, and given the strong racing tradition within the company, I’m sure they’re not too pleased with it either. As they are the only established team to be using Cosworth power this year, it is difficult to get a clear benchmark as to how much the engine is impacting on their performance. Certainly the Renault (Red Bull and Renault) and Mercedes (Mercedes, McLaren and Force India) power units appear to be strong, and although Ferrari have been doing well with their own cars, the only established teams yet to score a point are Toro Rosso and Sauber, both of whom use Ferrari customer engines. Of course aerodyanmics are the biggest driver of performance these days, but although the engine designs are effectively ‘frozen’ they can make a difference in terms of overall power, the way the power comes in when the throttle is used (driveability), reliability, shape – to help aerodynamics – and also the centre of gravity which can impact on handling. The F1 Racing article suggests that there are concerns with the driveability of the Cosworth engine and also its ability to maintain optimum performance with increased mileage. Apparently Cosworth are working on these issues and hope to have improvements in place for the Turkish Grand Prix.
Porsche have a fairly chequered history in F1. They entered a full works team in 1961 to take advantage of regulation changes to use a 1.5litre V6 engine, they remained until the end of 1964, shortly before the regulations changed again to permit larger 3.0 litre engines, but were not really able to enjoy much success during this period, they did win one race – the 1962 French Grand Prix at Rouen. They came back as an engine supplier in 1983 when their power units were used in the McLaren F1 car and branded Techniques Avant Garde (TAG) as this was the sponsor who funded the project. This relationship ended in 1987 when Ron Dennis had persuaded Honda to move to McLaren away from supplying – guess who? – Williams.
So why is there speculation about Porsche and Williams now? Well it seems to be one of these ‘by association’ links. Williams Hybrid Power (WHP) was set up by Williams to develop their KERS system for 2009, using a electro/mechanical (generator/flywheel and electric motor) system rather than the electrical (generator/battery and electric motor) system adopted by the other teams. However WHP is also a stand-alone operation which is looking to commercially exploit this F1 based technology for other applications. Recently they have collaborated with Porsche to produce the hybrid system for the new 911 GT3 R Hybrid race car. This was announced at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show in March and the car recently lead the field at the Nurburgring 24 hour race before succumbing to engine problems. Porsche clearly believe that hybrid technology is consistent with their high performance products and are using Williams’ F1 technology to develop this. However, it is unlikely that Porsche would entertain the idea of supplying an F1 engine in the short term with F1 engine regulations being very restrictive. However the FIA is currently working on new engine regulations from 2013, which are likely to emphasize hybrid technology, so this could be something for the future, and may provide an opportunity for Porsche or other VW group brands. However for the time being it looks as though Williams will have to hope that Cosworth make some progress in terms of catching up with Renault and Mercedes.