Special tradition continues on Williams’ new FW36

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It may be a new era for Formula One and a new car for Williams, but the Grove-based squad continues to honor two very important figures from their team’s proud history.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the death of three-time World Champion Ayrton Senna, who lost his life in an accident during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix while driving for Williams.

Since that dark day, every Williams Formula One car has featured Senna’s famous “S” logo somewhere on it to remember him. And so it goes with their 2014 challenger, the FW36…

Additionally, the other side of the nose features a separate tribute to Lady Virginia Williams, the wife of team founder Sir Frank Williams, who passed away last March after battling cancer for several years. As Sir Frank himself said last May about Senna and “Ginny,” “we as a team want them to be the first to cross the finish line in every race Williams takes part in.”

The Mercedes-powered FW36, decked out in Williams’ “heritage blue” testing livery, made its debut by rolling out of the Jerez garage late in today’s opening day of Formula One preseason testing with second-year driver Valtteri Bottas behind the wheel.

His new Williams teammate, veteran Felipe Massa, is scheduled to be in the car for the last two days of the session on Thursday and Friday.

After a couple of installation laps, Bottas logged a timed lap in the FW36 at 1 minute, 30.082 seconds before today’s testing came to a close.

On a relatively quiet afternoon of action, that was good for third on the time charts behind Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen (1:27.104, 31 laps) and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton (1:27.820, 18 laps), who crashed in the team’s new W05 car after a front wing failure.

In a team-issued Q-and-A to coincide with today’s launch, deputy team principal Claire Williams was very clear about her team’s goals following a dreadful 2013 that only saw them garner five points – four of them coming from Bottas’ eighth-place finish at the United States Grand Prix.

“We have to make progress,” she said. “I think that’s the single most important message for this year. We finished ninth in the [constructors’] championship last year and that was disappointing for everybody at Grove.

“We all know we have to do better. There is no alternative.”

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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