Today the whole world of Formula 1 knows Adrian Newey very well, especially for being the most successful designer in the history of this sport. Despite the fact that the figure of Newey is now esteemed and respected around the world, his first steps into the world of Formula 1 were not without controversy: when he worked for March, for example, his projects were characterized by a very exasperated and revolutionary aerodynamics, which invaded the other sectors of technical development, especially considering the few funds available to the team.
Her adventure with the English team reached its peak in the 1990 French Grand Prix when, despite limited resources, March almost managed to win with Ivan Capelli.
Leaving aside this and other exploits, the parable of the March, which later became Leyton House, is globally descending and this leads to the dismissal of Newey in the summer of 1990. But what looks like a bitter defeat turns into the greatest victory for the English engineer. being immediately hired by Patrick Head, Williams' technical director. Head saw in Newey a brilliant and revolutionary figure who until now had been limited by the scarce resources of his previous team, and is therefore convinced that having more resources at his disposal he could have conceived a winning car. Head, therefore, immediately puts Newey to work on the project of the 1991 car, the progenitor of the 1992 FW14B.
Nowadays we have an excellent amount of information available on this car because given its supremacy it will become the subject of studies and observations for years. And Patrick Head himself will release a long interview in which he will reveal many aspects regarding the car that in the 1992 championship obtained ten wins and fifteen pole positions out of the sixteen scheduled seasonal rounds.
The secrets of this car are four in particular: the active suspension, the semi-automatic gearbox with steering wheel control, the electronic controls and the powerful and light Renault engine.
Head's primary objective is to reduce the weight of the car, partly thanks to the removal of the springs in a new suspension that relies solely on pistons operated by electro-hydraulic actuators. However, all this is not enough, and we need to work in particular on two other components: the engine and the gearbox.
The Williams is powered by Renault, which brings to the track for the 1992 season the RS3C V10 with 3500 cubic centimeters of displacement, which thanks to the pneumatic valve recall system is able to produce a power of 760 horsepower, containing weight and dimensions, allowing Williams to design a car with excellent mechanical stability, also leaving Newey full freedom to indulge in the development of aerodynamics that is not hindered by the dimensions of the engine.
Newey therefore studied an extremely tapered shape of the rear section, also known as the Coca-Cola zone, an aerodynamic concept introduced by McLaren in 1984 but always clearly used by the English engineer.
As for the gearbox, Williams already introduced the semi-automatic model with steering wheel gearbox in the previous season, but encountered some reliability problems that were solved by the 1992 season. Patrick Head states that this season his team has the opportunity to count on an exceptional gearbox, which is also compact and light and thanks to the semi-automatic technology allows the drivers to change gear four or five times faster than the competition. also optimizing engine usage speeds.
The FW14B is also at the forefront with regard to electronic driving aid systems, with the use - for a period - of ABS and above all of traction control, which gives some advantages to drivers on dry conditions and in particular on the wet, where the rider can accelerate without worrying too much about traction, which is optimized by this electronic system that adjusts the thrust of the engine according to the grip available.
Coming now to the suspensions, it is interesting to observe the fact that Head has always stated that those equipped by McLaren have a superior technology than those of Williams, which is however more efficient in terms of aerodynamics thanks to the extraordinary work of Newey. In fact, the ten-year fame of this car, in mass culture, is mainly due to these suspensions and the famous videos that see it rise and fall inside the pits, but to tell the truth it is not only this factor that determines success of the project.
The FW14B is a technical masterpiece born above all from a harmonious combination of factors: the suspensions are indeed very sophisticated, but they are also and above all integrated into an overall light and efficient mechanics, thanks also to the aforementioned reductions in the weight of the engine and gearbox. In addition, the dynamic adjustment of the height from the ground optimizes the efficiency of Newey's aerodynamics, also characterized by sinuous and pleasant shapes that make the aesthetics of this car very enjoyable.
Finally, there is a final aspect to analyze, which commonly does not enjoy much attention from technical enthusiasts, but which turns out to be fundamental for making high-performance cars: the simplicity of tuning.
On this issue the FW14B proves to be an exceptional vehicle, which during the course of the season uses very few different aerodynamic setups thanks above all to the incredible adaptability that is given to it by the active suspension.
Symbiosis with Mansell, when technology meets man
Given the premises, the 1992 season will be triumphal: Mansell wins nine wins out of sixteen events, fourteen pole positions and 108 points in the standings that allow him to win the first, as well as the only, world championship title. Patrese, on the other hand, is the protagonist of a more troubled season, in which he still manages to win his sixth career Grand Prix in Japan and becomes world vice-champion after helping Mansell and Williams to win the drivers 'and constructors' titles.
The FW14B allows Newey to establish himself as a talented designer and represents the first in a long line of cars that will prove clearly superior to the competition and capable of setting design guidelines.