Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Williams-Renault FW14B

He may be making himself known to a new generation as a spokesman for price comparison services, but those of us who are a bit longer in the tooth remember the days before Indy cars, before up-and-down performances in Mondeo touring cars, when a heavily-moustachioed Nigel Mansell was strapped into this: the Williams-Renault FW14B.

Frank Williams' eager recruit for the early nineties, Adrian Newey, helped to develop a car that was tremendously advanced and consequently near-unbeatable. Its aero-efficient design marked a sea change in F1 aerodynamic thinking, with its vast rear diffuser, raised nose, tapered sidepods and arrow-pointed cockpit. Technical director Patrick Head went to great lengths to ensure the reliable potency of the Renault V10 was ready to deliver the necessary goods, while the revolutionary Williams Active Suspension gave the team a marked (and legal) edge.

Why do I describe the FW14B as 'near-unbeatable'? The technology was there, as was the pace... but so was the curse of Nigel Mansell's bad luck; when he wasn't fluffing downshifts and lunching the engine within yards of the finish line, he was driving out of the pits without all four wheels attached.
Nevertheless, the FW14B remains one of the most iconic F1 cars of the nineties, and the endlessly talented (if slightly unfortunate) Mansell was the perfect driver for it. You can learn more about it here.

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