Williams FW33 – Lowline gearbox

Williams said their new car would be aggressive, but at first look the FW33 seemed quite conventional.  Until the area above the gearbox is looked at.  In order to gain the maximum flow towards the lower beam wing, Williams have removed a large part of the gearbox case (as described in the below illustration shaded yellow) ,lowered the differential and reworked the rear suspension.

In fact Williams Design team have completely rethought the rear suspension and gear case. By going to a Pullrod set up, the rockers, torsion bars and dampers that normally occupy the space above the gearbox are sited low down at the side of the gearbox (see http://scarbsf1.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/red-bull-pull-rod-suspension-what-is-looks-like-how-it-benefits-aerodynamics/).  Without this hardware mounted so high up,  the area above the gearbox is just a void. So although it serves a structural purpose the stiffen the suspension mounting points.  If they can be sufficiently stiff, then this area can be removed. Thus with the Williams the air flows over the upper body and around the engine cover, the bodywork then curves in behind the engine and airbox in a sharp “V”.   There is then no structure to hinder the airflow, until the air passes around the rear wing support, which now doubles up as the top rear wishbone mounting.

To remove other elements in the air steam, Williams have removed the toe link from behind the driveshaft and replaced it with a “Z” link upper wishbone. The slim carbon fibre moulding acting as both suspension members.
Further lowering the rear end the differential is lowered as far as possible. The differential is driven from the cross shaft between the diff and the main gear cluster. The differential can effectively be at any angle pivoted around the centreline of the cross shaft. What Williams have done is to lower it as far as possible while still allowing the CV joints some consideration and the starter shaft to be accessed.  This does effectively make the gearbox slightly longer.

One fear from the outsiders point of view would be the structural efficiency of such a waisted design, especially the vertical spar, that supports the wishbones leg above the differential. Williams would either have to compromise weight or stiffness to make the design efficient. So despite the loss of a large proportion of the gear case, the gain may be offset by the penalty of added weight to make the remaining structure stiff enough.

This gearbox has been a long lead time project, Sam Michael told me the new case was planned as early as March last year and the hard worked CV joints and driveshafts are designed and made by Pankl. They have no worries about the set ups reliability, although the joints are installed with such an extreme angularity, that they would either rob power or reliability with a normal design joint.

So complex is this set up, it would be near impossible to copy during the season.  As this would require new rear crash structures which are now homologated.  Not to mention the lead time and cost involved in developing a new gearcase and driveshaft solution.

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