François-Xavier (FX) Demaison: My pre-season journal

Published on
03 Mar 2022
Est. reading time
4 Min

Our Technical Director, FX, guides us through what has been a busy winter for the team

It’s been a very long process and a lot of effort has been put in by the whole team to design this new car. With a new set of rules, new tyres, a completely new aero concept plus new safety requirements, it’s been a long process.
Put simply, it’s a brand-new car and it’s been a while since the team faced that kind of challenge. For Jost and the management team it has been a big project to put everything in place to take this challenge on.
A lot of energy was put into improving the equipment here at Grove, and we’ve completely modernised everything from the wind tunnel to the machinery. It’s been a tough last six months but we are here, we were on time and we are happy to show that we could put together an all-new car.
Alex Albon completes another lap in the FW44 at the pre-season track session in Barcelona
Alex Albon completes another lap in Barcelona
As Technical Director, I spend most of my time and energy on the group of more than 300 people who work to develop and engineer the car. Dorilton’s investment has allowed us to increase the size of the team, so we have added to our already talented staff in areas such as aero development, design, calculation, artificial intelligence and other new technologies we use. It’s certainly been interesting; we’re slowly but surely starting to see the results of our labour and I think there is much more to come in the next few years.
As there are no miracles in motorsport, we have a long-term plan. You need to take your time when building a team like this, then allow them to work together and develop; we’re certainly focused on a multi-year plan.
What is really new to me compared to my time in the WRC (World Rally Championship) is that in F1 the rules around testing are very strict. You can’t test much before the start of the season, so that’s a big challenge. I come from a background where you can test wherever it was possible to do a rally, testing in the same conditions to improve the reliability of the car.
That’s not possible in F1; we only have two sets of three days in February and March before the first race, so it’s one of the biggest changes I’ve had to get used to. The team is a bit more used to this, but it still remains a big challenge.
As a result, you have to be ready to start on time and maximise the testing you do have; every single minute must be used to make the car faster. It puts a lot of pressure on the team to be ready on time and they more than stepped up.
I was pleased with the number of kilometres we got under our belt in Barcelona, especially when you consider that it is a brand-new generation of car. There were a few teething problems, but these are completely normal – you can build a car that is 100% reliable from the first minute, but it would be a tank and certainly wouldn’t be fast! We challenged our design team to push the limits, so you will always expect to have these small issues.
Performance wise it’s difficult to estimate where we are because we don’t know how much fuel the other teams were running or what engine modes they were in. But what was good is that both drivers were happy with the car. The feedback they gave us suggested that they can push with this car, they can follow and brake late. We must not rest on our laurels however; it is a fast-paced sport and we have to keep improving and seek those marginal gains.
We don’t have too much time to make many changes to the car before Bahrain because the freight is leaving soon, but we must iron out the smaller issues we had. Then we’ll look for some targeted improvements to give us more direction on the tyre usage and aero development. We’ve seen a lot of different aero concepts, so this has certainly given us some ideas but we have to be certain which one is the best one for our own concept. We’re hugely excited for that first qualifying session in Bahrain when we’ll get a true sense of where we stack up against the other nine teams. We’re all racers at Williams, it is why we do this job.
I love this pressure and there’s only a few more weeks before we see where we truly stand - it’s really exciting. I’m looking forward to it and if we are not fast enough, we will be pushing more to improve the performance. That’s the pressure of motorsport and we all love it!
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