Formula 1 - 1993 - Williams FW15C - Renault V10 - 760+ bhp
Races: 16 | Wins: 10 | Poles: 15 | Fastest Laps: 10
Based on the very successful FW14/FW14B chassis, the FW15 was born. The FW15B was simply a conversion to the changes in regulations for the 1993 Formula 1 season, while the FW15C included a variety of additional technological advancements over the FW15B, as well as a slightly smaller fuel tank. The engine in the FW15C, as with the FW14s, was supplied by Renault. The 67° V-10 was capable of at least 760bhp, more than 30hp more than McLaren’s Ford V8, and was less thirsty than Ferrari’s fiery V12. The engine was mated to a Williams-designed semi-automatic gearbox operated by paddles behind the wheel. With the engine/transmission setup alone things were looking good for Williams, but the Williams engineers wanted to take it a step further.
Williams’ FW15C was (and still is, due to restrictions barring the use of electronic driver aids) the most technologically advanced Formula 1 car ever made. The car featured anti-lock brakes, traction control, telemetry, fly-by-wire controls, pneumatic valve springs, power steering, a semi-automatic transmission and at the forefront of all of these, active suspension. Modern suspension, as we all know it, usually consists of bushings, coil springs and shocks. The FW15C, however, used instead a push-rod actuated hydropneumatic suspension system front and back that kept the car at optimal ride height at all four wheels at nearly all times, using on board computers. The computer systems were fast enough to counter the typical body roll from cornering and even braking and accelerating. The active suspension alone consistently took not tenths, but entire seconds off lap times. The car also featured a push-to-pass button that used the active suspension to raise the rear of the car to reduce drag caused by the diffuser, while at the same time increasing the maximum engine revs by 300 for a bit of extra power. The transmission, along with being operated by the paddles, also had a feature wherein the driver could use an “auto-up” button and the gearbox would automatically shift up at optimum RPMs until the driver was ready to make changes on his own again.
These, along with a handful of other on-board aids, made the Williams FW15C a hugely dominant car. The FW15C brought Alain Prost the Drivers Championship in 1993, and Williams the Manufacturers Championship with the car winning 10 victories in 16 races, with a staggering 15 straight pole positions. At times in qualifying, Prost would be 2 seconds faster than his legendary rivals, Michael Schumacher (racing for Benetton) and Ayrton Senna (who was with McLaren). While the electronic aids clearly made for a faster car, Prost said that at times the car was still more of a handful, as the electronic systems were not perfect and sometimes misinterpreted data.
For the 1994 season, all such aids were banned by the FIA, in light of the fact that they vastly reduced the impact of driver ability on the sport. Even today, the cars do not have nearly the amount of assists as Prost and teammate Damon Hill were able to take advantage of in 1993. While some people were upset by this, this leveled the playing field between the teams with more funding than the smaller ones. It also ensured that driver skill played a big part race by race, while keeping the sport entertaining to watch and follow.