The Williams FW35 was launched in a relatively low key event at the first Barcelona test this week, and when the covers were slowly drawn off the new car, what we were greeted with was an incredible looking machine. Williams have recently stated that the FW35 is a pure evolution of the previous seasons FW34, yet over 80% of the new car is brand new, and when you look upon its rather striking bodywork you can easily see why.

It is radical in every sense of the word, from the incredibly short and stubby, but relatively high nosecone, to the hugely undercut sidepods, and gearbox area that is so tightly packaged it is pretty much nonexistent, leaving a huge gap between the rear of the bodywork and the diffuser/rear wing area. Following the first test at Jerez a number of innovations caught my eye, and one of those was the Caterham exhaust area. The “Green Machine” or CT-03, had been spotted sporting a turning vane within the exhaust tunnel area itself, it’s purpose looked quite obvious in that is was implemented to guide the nice hot exhaust gases more efficiently towards the rear floor area and on to the diffuser.

But the Williams team have looked to perhaps go one step further in terms of interpreting the exhaust regulations under technical section 5.8.4 which states:

There must be no bodywork lying within a right circular truncated cone which:

a) Shares a common axis with that of the last 100mm of the tailpipe.
b) Has a forward diameter equal to that of each exhaust exit.
c) Starts at the exit of the tailpipe and extends rearwards as far as the rear wheel centre line.
d) Has a half‐cone angle of 3° such that the cone has its larger diameter at the rear wheel centre line.

Furthermore, there must be a view from above, the side, or any intermediate angle perpendicular to the car centre line, from which the truncated cone is not obscured by any bodywork lying more than 50mm forward of the rear wheel centre line.

What the rule basically states is that no bodywork should be lying above or within the exhaust channel with the intention to manipulate that airflow to enhance the effect towards the rear diffuser and therefore increasing rear downforce within those set parameters featured above. Furthermore the exhaust plume (or cone) is not allowed to be blocked or obscured by any bodywork at certain angles as stated above.

Williams FW35 exhaust (Photo Credit: Octane Photographic)

Williams’ argument for the legality of their system hinges on the small gap between the bodywork elements bridging over the exhaust cone (Photo Credit: Octane Photographic)

What Williams have gone on to do, is add two separate blades either side of the exhaust channel that raise above the tunnel. These two blades curve round to “almost” meet in the middle, leaving a small gap in the middle leading the cone to be visible from all perpendicular angles in which the technical regulations stipulate. Now they protest that the solution is legal due to the fact the blades are in two parts and above the exhaust plume, whereas the Caterham being a single piece situated within the exhaust tunnel itself is therefore directly depicting the angle of the exhaust gases when they exit.

Now the FIA have expressed their view stating that the exhaust’s primary function in any team should not be to enhance the aerodynamic performance of the car, and therefore the sides of the coanda effect exhaust tunnels are not allowed to meet in the middle essentially. Now of course it looks like Williams had tried to run around that point in the regulations by making sure the two blades around the exhaust plume do not meet in the middle, unlike Caterhams, however the FIA appeared to have deemed both illegal upon a further inspection in Barcelona.

Whilst Williams can argue that due to the bodywork being featured above the exhaust channel and not connected in any way, unlike Caterhams interpretation, it therefore does not make the exhausts primary function an aerodynamic manipulator, we all as fans know exactly why the bodywork is situated where it is. The two blades above the channel help hugely with the plume exiting the exhaust, sculpting and then guiding the cone of hot air towards the rear diffuser in a much more efficient manner than if there was to be no bodywork there at all, therefore making the exhaust a primary aerodynamic device in the process.

If the FIA do not play ball and come Melbourne the exhaust solutions are permanently outlawed I expect them to completely rewrite the regulations in that area to ensure no other types of interpretation can be perceived by teams and no grey area exists. Williams have looked to further clarify the regulations with the FIA and have entered more talks to understand the situation going into the first race of the year at Albert Park – but I have a feeling it looks bleak. But that should not mean they will not be competitive come Australia. The FW35 sports a very aggressive and stumpy nosecone, connected to extremely long front wing struts. This huge gap this generates under the nose has one sole aim, to drive air under the front nosecone and then around the sidepods towards the rear diffuser. It is a system very similar to that of the Ferrari F138 this season as the Scuderia look to optimise the airflow around the car so it will be interesting to see how effective the Williams interpretation is given its similarities.

The car as a whole has raised a few eyebrows up and down the paddock and the exhaust area discussion I am sure will rage on for the coming weeks. It is a very clever interpretation that looks to get around the stumbling block Caterham have hit with theirs being directly in the exhaust tunnel, but it looks like the FIA are not playing ball and have the stance that the bodywork directly depicts the exhaust as an aerodynamic device. It is just the latest innovation to be under scrutiny since the 2013 pre season test have been underway and I expect a few more to get the treatment up and down the paddock. Whatever the decision may be, the Williams looks quick and I expect them to be hugely competitive come Australia in a month’s time.