Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Williams-Renault FW14B

Williams-Renault FW14B
The mighty Williams racing team has produced many a GP car over the years - but none have had quite the allure of the FW14B.  As soon as Patrick Head picked up his designer's pen, world domination was on the cards!  There was another key protagonist, though.  A certain Nigel Mansell did the driving - and was in sync with the FW14B to an uncanny degree.  Are certain drivers born to squeeze into certain cockpits?  Who knows!  What is certain is that no-one else on the planet was going to be winning the 1992 world driver's title - so far ahead of the pack was Mansell, in his Williams of choice.

The core component in the FW14B package was active-ride suspension.  Not for the first time, Lotus had blazed a trail for the new set-up years before - and Williams followed suit in 1987.  In '88, too, they continued their 'active-ride' quest - but Patrick Head's faith was shaken by reliability issues.  Nothing daunted, Adrian Newey - Williams' aerodynamicist - had done enough wind tunnel testing to know that active-ride was the way to go.  The idea behind it was to keep the car uniformly upright - thereby consistently optimising its interface with the air.  Newey badgered Head to give active-ride one last chance.  Come 1991, and the system was duly slotted into the Williams FW14 chassis.  For sure. the motor racing gods were smiling - this time around everything gelled!

When the FW14B was first dropped off the blocks, it hit the ground running.  Actually, that's a bit of an understatement for a car which won its first five Grand Prix.  Four more victories followed for Mansell - as he grabbed the '92 season by the scruff of its neck!  There were a mere two races at which he and the Williams did not start on pole.  The Renault V-10 powering the plot performed to perfection - and in doing so used far less fuel than the Mclaren Honda V-12.  There was simply nowhere to hide for Williams' rivals.  With the FW14B, they had covered all bases - and then some!  Even the paint scheme outshone its competitors!  With those bold primary colours careening round race-tracks, spectators were treated to a rich visual feast.  Of course, those hues will forever be associated with the great Nigel Mansell!  A well-connected interviewee was once asked - who was the most determined F1 driver he had ever met?  Oh, that is an easy one, he replied - Nigel Mansell would drive a car through a brick wall to get something done!  But with the FW14B, he did not have to.  Patrick Head and Adrian Newey had made his life easy...well, relatively speaking, that is!  One of the most iconic racing cars ever built, the Williams FW14B was miles ahead of its nearest rival...which is always a nice place for an F1 driver to be! 

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