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There was no pomp and the circumstances were underrated, but when you are World Champions you have little to prove. That’s indeed how it was when the new Williams FW19 was unveiled to the world’s press at the team's former base at Didcot, Oxfordshire, last Friday. With minimum fuss, the two Williams drivers Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill replacement, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, pulled back the blue ‘Williams’ crested cover to reveal a car that is deceptively similar to last years model. Whilst Adrian Newey former aerodynamicist with Williams and designer of the car, was absent and glaringly unmentioned, technical director Patrick Head enthused about the new model. "The FW19 is basically a logical evolution of the FW17/18 "family" but with a significantly lighter and more compact transverse six-speed gearbox working in conjunction with the latest lighter and lower Renault RS9 V10 engine. The gearbox has been designed to blend into the shape of the mandatory deformable rear end so that it improves the airflow over the rear wing and the air-intake has been raised and re-shaped." Sounding confident, Head continued: "This has given the Williams technical team an opportunity to create a car that will set standards in performance and drivability. Both drivers expect to win races and challenge for the title."

The New FW19 - Photo from ICN SPORTSWEB

Whilst no one present doubted that one bit, both drivers looked a tad non-plussed during the proceedings. Frentzen remarked that Hill’s championship win last year was going to be ‘a difficult act to follow’. Villeneuve on the other hand sounded almost like a weary man of the world when he complained that the current crop of cars were too slow: "Formula one has gone overboard on safety." He said. "It’s now 20 times safer and if someone other than Ayrton Senna, or, if no one had died, they wouldn’t have cared that much about it. I will stay in Formula one as long as I am getting fun out of my racing. There will be a different kind of pressure on me this year, a more positive pressure. Last year people were expecting me to fall flat on my face and I proved them wrong. This year I have to prove them right when they expect me to win the championship."

As Frentzen made for a quick getaway in his helicopter, Patrick Head finished on a cautionary note. "We are obviously hoping to continue our recent level of success, but nothing is certain in this business and there has not been enough comparative pre-season testing to establish how everybody is going."

 To add to the woes of all the unsuccessful teams last year , Williams announced that they will continue to use Renault engines for the next two years at least. The French company Mecachrome will develop the engines further with the co-operation of Renault who will sell them the units and the technical expertise. This will keep the team highly competitive, albeit a touch poorer, into the Millennium when it is expected that German engine manufacturer BMW will be lying between the rear wheels.

Frank Williams refused to be drawn on the subject of the up and coming manslaughter trial over the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola in ’94. He just said: "it will not in any way influence the way we approach the season".

The car in Barcelona this week, where it will undertake an intensive programme of testing, is already 5 seconds a lap quicker than the FW18C that Frentzen ran before the launch of its successor.

Chris Richardson

 1996 onwards. Speed and its contents may not be reproduced without written permission from the editorial team.