What a lovely thing this is... in 2002, Williams could still remember winning F1 Championships and this model was a winner too.
Building it isn't too difficult for anyone used to doing any of the larger Technic sets, but it's still quite an intricate thing so give yourself plenty of time.
Closely related to the McLaren-like 8458 Silver Champion, this managed to improve the appearance of that already very nice model, if not it's mechanical aspects. There was nothing very much wrong with these, but both models are not without niggles...
Engine: Blue pistons anyone ? That detail may not be realistic but the rest of it is a feast for the eyes, festooned with artfully placed exhaust tubing and oil coolers and radiators and whatnot. With the standard gearing it turns very slowly when the car is pushed and makes no noise at all. Never mind, just remember to gee it up early on in the build (a 24 tooth crownwheel acting on a little pinion will JUST clear the suspension assembly to give it a 3:1 axle ratio) and you'll at least be able to hear it. And those blue pistons (unique to this set ?) do give it a further lift.
Steering: This works pretty well from the correctly-shaped steering wheel. However, that wheel's very authentic shape does make it awkward to manipulate. A 'Hand of God' device would have been welcome. That said, as this model is leaning more towards being a display object than a toy this is an understandable omission. It does leave one wondering how Lewis and Co. cope, though...
Suspension: A superb system, rarely bettered since. Those long wishbone arm pieces prove a godsend, allowing a suitably 'fragile' appearance while being plenty strong enough in practice. The pushrod arrangement for the springs is very cleverly contrived as well, making me suspect that this was designed by a very knowledgeable F1 fan. Hats off for that one. The only sticking point concerns the amount of friction caused by joints hinging on those long black pins instead of looser grey ones. This only affects the front (there's more room for a slightly different arrangement at the back), But it does mean that the front is slow to bounce back when compressed. For sure, it is only a small problem... as they say in F1 circles.
Body: Even more handsome than the Silver Champion, partly because of the blue and white, but mostly because the panels' design is less fussy giving this car a cleaner appearance. Also, a little more attention was paid to filling in gaps and details like the design of the rear wing. What with that smoothly lifting engine cover this aspect is a great success. Looks a little naked without the stickers, though and boy are there a lot of them! As long as they're applied carefully it'll look great, however, I question the need to spread one across TWELVE large tiles on the rear wing.
Overall, what we have here is a beautiful, reasonably accurate and very nicely detailed (and HUGE!) display model that retains enough technical interest to engage both the engineer and the aesthete. The F1 fan in your life will love it.