Williams split with head of aero after troubled start to F1 2018

Williams have parted company with their head of aerodynamics after a troubled start to the 2018 Formula 1 season.

The team say that Dirk De Beer had stepped down with immediate effect, little over a year after the former Ferrari and Renault aerodynamicist started working at Grove.

De Beer’s exit follows that of former chief designer Ed Wood, who left the team for personal reasons earlier in May.

Doug McKiernan, who joined Williams in February, will now assume responsibility for the aerodynamic and design direction of the team’s struggling FW41 car, with Dave Wheater appointed head of aerodynamics.

Williams’ reshuffle comes as the team look to turn around their season after making their worst start to a campaign since 2013.

Clare Williams discusses the possibility of Porsche becoming Williams' engine manufacturer in the future.

The nine-time constructors’ champions, fifth-place finishers in each of the last two seasons, currently prop up the teams’ standings with Lance Stroll’s eighth-place finish in Azerbaijan their only points-scoring result after six rounds.

Stroll and team-mate Sergey Sirokin finished last weekend’s Monaco GP in 17th and 16th positions respectively, although the Russian had qualified 13th.

Williams believe they now understand the reasons for the FW41’s struggles with chief technical officer Paddy Lowe confirming they have initiated a ‘recovery programme’ which they hope will bear fruit by the mid-point of the season.

What is wrong with Williams’ 2018 car?
Writing in a recent Sky F1 column, expert analyst Mark Hughes explained the aerodynamic problems believed to be holding the FW41 back.

“The initial suggestion is that the car’s aerodynamics change radically in yaw [i.e. as soon as the car is turned at an angle] – which is a pretty fundamental problem, given that turning a corner involves exactly such a situation,” wrote Hughes.

“The aerodynamic philosophy of the current generation of F1 car is largely based upon directing the airflow from the outboard edges of the front wing to go around the tyre and interact with the flow being directed from the transition between the front wing’s main plane and the mandated neutral section in the middle [referred to as the Y250 for reasons that don’t need detain us here].

“As air flows over two different angles of a surface it will create a vortex of spinning air – and a particularly strong one is created by this Y250 transition, and that vortex is directed to just ahead of the sidepod. The incredibly complex shapes on the endplates create another vortex, which meets just above that created by the Y250.

“These two vortices spin in opposite directions – and that has the effect of drawing the air around them into the gap between them, increasing the speed of the flow all the way down the side of the car on its way to the gap between the rear wheel’s inner face and the external outer shoulder of the diffuser.

“The air exiting from that gap merges with the air exiting the diffuser from the underfloor and the two flows draw upon each other, which pulls the air faster through the underbody, creating more downforce.

“But the whole process is prefaced very strongly on getting those vortices coming off the front wing directed to the right place.

“If one or other of those vortices are somehow going somewhere other than where they’re directed as soon as the steering wheel is turned, it effectively would switch off much of the whole airflow regime of the car.

“If that indeed is what is happening, understanding and correcting it might be a very long project. On the other hand, it may all reside in one innocuous detail.”

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