Williams F1’s Aerodynamicist Leaves Amidst Car Design Debacle

The Williams FW41 is the team's worst car in years, and it's shaking up the team's structure.

Aero development lead Dirk De Beer is confirmed to have vacated his position at Williams Formula 1 Team.

De Beer was hired for the role at Williams just over a season ago, and his departure comes in the wake of the exodus of the team’s chief designer Ed Wood. De Beer’s duties will be fulfilled by Doug McKiernan, chief engineer, and the aero department will now be headed by Dave Wheater.

The team’s car, the FW41, has been a source of headaches throughout the season. Reserve driver Robert Kubica, though faster than the team’s race drivers in Friday practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, complained about the car’s poor balance.

“It’s difficult to say that it was enjoyable because our car balance was very bad and it was very difficult to drive,” stated Kubica according to Reuters. “This morning we were slow but apart from being slow it was nearly impossible to keep the car on the track. That’s something we need to change.”

Analysis by Motorsport Magazine claims aerodynamic flaws caused by the car’s front wing design misdirected air vortices when the FW41 yaws under load. This problem must be addressed while the team redevelops its design philosophies for the 2019 season, which will require the team’s next car—presumably named the FW42—to comply with new regulations that stipulate simpler front wings. 

The Drive contacted Williams for comment on its development path, to which a team spokesperson responded.

“Development of the FW41 is continuing and car development for next year also started a while back,” stated the spokesperson in an email to The Drive.

Major development personnel changes elsewhere in the paddock have also taken place this month, with key Ferrari player Simone Resta departing for Alfa Romeo Sauber, filling the hole left by Jörg Zander. McLaren, too, has reacted to its own underperformance by saying farewell to longtime engineer Tim Goss. Whether these personnel changes will bunch the midfield up further will be determined later in the 2018 and throughout the 2019 seasons.