Williams Martini Racing is one of the most historic teams in the Motorsport history, Frank Williams and the British engineer Patrick Head were the two founders of the team. Williams made its debut with Marchs chassis in 1977 in the Spanish Grand Prix and took part in the second half of the Formula One season.
The first car, known as FW06, revealed at the end of 1977 and the Australian driver Alan Jones was the first who had the opportunity to drive it. At that time 17 people were working for Williams and Frank Williams found financial support from Middle Eastern companies.
At their debut season, Williams finished 9th in the constructors’ championship, took part in 16 races and finished once on the podium.
The following season was totally different as the FW07 scored 75 points and finished runner-up in the constructors’ championship, behind Ferrari. Williams won five races at that season and took three pole positions. The two drivers who raced that year were the Swiss Clay Regazzoni and the Australian Alan Jones. The first victory for the team came at the British Grand Prix, Regazzoni took the chequered flag and was about 25 seconds ahead of the other drivers.
“This is the best feeling in the world.” These were Frank Williams’ words after Williams’ first world title in 1980. The team won six races, five victories for Jones and one victory for Reutemann, also they scored 19 podiums in total, three pole positions and five fastest laps. The FW07B was unbeatable at that season. One of the best moments of that year was when Jones and Reutemann finished first and second respectively in Montreal and the Australian celebrated his driver world title.
Between 1980-1997 Williams won nine constructors’ championship and seven drivers’ championships.
The following season (1981) the team celebrates their second consecutive title. Reutemann finished second and his team-mate third, the FW07C participated in 15 Grand Prix, won four races and finished 13 times on the podium. Carlos Reutemann lost the drivers’ title by just one point at the season finale in Las Vegas.
Keke Rosberg signed a contract with Williams in 1982 and claimed the drivers’ world title by winning just one race during the season. That year there were eleven different winners in sixteen races and one of the most memorable moment was Rosberg’s second place in Austria, where Keke finished only 0.05s behind Elio de Angelis.
The next couple of years, Williams were not very competitive and the team won only two races in those seasons, but in 1985 Keke Rosberg and Nigel Mansell won four races and scored 71 points which moved the Williams up to the third place in the constructors’ championship.
Nelson Piquet joined Williams in 1987, a dominant year for the team as they won the constructors’ and the drivers’ championship. It was Williams second consecutive constructors’ title. Nelson finished first and the team scored 19 podiums, nine wins, and twelve poles at that year.
From 1988 until 1991 Williams finished two times in the second position. The first one was in 1989, Partese finished 3rd while his team-mate Boutsen finished 5th. The team collected 77 points and won two races and finished 10 times on the podium. In 1991, Mansell won five races, which helped the team to score 125 points and finish second in the championship.
The following three years were full of victories and trophies for Williams. Three years, three world titles. In 1992, Mansell won the drivers’ championship with the Renault-powered FW14B. Ten wins, twenty podiums, and fifteen poles for Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Partese. The two drivers collected 164 points combined and Williams finished at the highest position in the championship. At the Portuguese Grand Prix, Mansell claimed Williams’ 50th pole. In 1993, it was Alain Prost’s turn to claim the championship with the FW15C, whilst his team-mate, Damon Hill finished third in the championship. Ten wins and 22 podiums were enough for Williams to secure the constructors’ title.
Three drivers drove the Renault V10 powered FW16 in 1994. Hill, Coulthard, and Mansell but none manage to win the drivers’ world title. Despite that, Williams won its third consecutive world title by collecting 118 points and scoring seven wins.
A battle for the drivers’ title took place in 1996, between the two Williams’ drivers Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve. At the final race in Japan, Damon took the chequered flag and the world title. It was a dominant season for Williams as they won twelve of the sixteen races and the FW18 collected 175 points and finished way ahead of their main rival Ferrari in the constructors’ standings.
The next season, Williams won three of the four opening races, Villeneuve beat Michael Schumacher and celebrated his first world title. The FW19 was unbeatable, participated in 17 Grands Prix and won eight of them, it was Williams’ ninth and final title.
The fallen of the empire
After the world title in the constructors’ championship in 1997, Williams did not manage to finish on the highest place on the board again. The team won some crucial races, finished two times as a runner-up and five times in the third place.
In 1998, Williams announced that BMW will be their engine supplier since 2000 as Renault decided to withdraw from Formula 1. At that year the FW20 ran with Mecachrome V10 engine, Jacques Villeneuve and Heinz-Harald Frentzen finished three times on the podium and Williams collected 38 points in total. These points were enough to secure them the third place.
In BMW’s debut as an engine supplier, Ralf Schumacher and Jenson Button scored 36 points combined. Schumacher took three podiums and the FW22 and finished fifth in the drivers’ championship. The following year was even better for the team and for BMW, nine podium finishes and four victories for Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya. Williams finished third with 80 points almost double than previous’ season.
Williams reacted positively in the new regulations in 2003, the FW25 was very competitive but still, that was not enough and the team did not manage to beat Ferrari, hence they finished second with 144 points.
The following years were very tough for Williams, the team was not very competitive and even Montoya’s victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2004 was not enough to change the fact that Williams was not as competitive as they used to be. In 2006, BMW departure and Williams raced with Cosworth V8. At that season, Nico Rosberg replaced Nick Heidfeld and became Mark Webber’s new team-mate.
Rubens Barrichello, one of the most experienced drivers on the grid, joined Williams in 2010 alongside the new GP2 champion Nico Hulkenberg. After two low seasons, Williams presented a more competitive car in 2011, the FW34. Pasto Maldonado took the one and only victory of that season at the Spanish Grand Prix.
The introduction of the new hybrid 1.6-litre turbo charged V6 power unit, allowed Williams to score points in the first half of the 2014 season. After two years of absence, the team returned to podium finishes at the Austrian Grand Prix. The Mercedes-powered FW36 collected 320 points and finished 3rd in the constructors’ championship.
Last season Valtteri Bottas with his FW38, secured Williams one and only podium finish in Canada. It was an emotional season, as Massa announced his retirement at the Italian Grand Prix. At the season-finale, Williams, lost the fourth place from Force India, hence they finished 5th with 138 points.
The rookie Lance Stroll will race alongside the ex-retired driver Felipe Massa this season and Williams aims to be more competitive than last year in order to return to the podium finishes.
Victor Archakis – @FP_Passion