What do you think when you say Williams F1? It’s hard to say because there has been a long journey since the famous team was born in 1977. Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve: this illustrious list of big names who won the title driving a Williams.
An incredible and dominating era shared with McLaren and Ferrari, that goes from the early eighties to the end of the millennium. But when I think of Williams I see a yellow lid in front of me, I hear a Brazilian accent shouting above the screaming engine, I feel a green flag flying in my beating heart, the legend of Ayrton Senna that tells an unfinished story from the FW16, this car was, unfortunately, the last car he would ever drive, the car he wanted so much to win the title in but betrayed him by not even finishing one race. The Williams team certainly has been through many different situations in its time: Wins, World championships, domination, good times and bad but they have always come through the tough times to fight another day.
Many other great drivers have passed through the British team during its forty years, Jenson Button started his career here in 2000, showing all his great talent.
So we can say, for sure, that Frank Williams has always been able to discover new and talented drivers. Montoya, Ralf Schumacher, Rosberg to name but a few. Some of the biggest names in Formula One history have, at one point, driven for the Williams team. This year marks 20 years since they won their last world championship with Jacques Villeneuve at the helm. The competition has seen many new teams joining over the years, Ferrari, Renault, Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren, some of these teams doing a better job, sadly Williams has lived for many years in a kind of limbo and it seems they can’t get out of the rut they are stuck in.
So now, when I think of Williams most of my thoughts refer to the former glory of this legendary, once dominating team, Times have changed, they have never given up. I fondly think of Sir Frank always there no matter was is thrown at him and the team he holds so dearly to his heart. Who knows maybe one day, with the right engine, we will see Willliams return to their winning ways.
Last season, 2016, proved to be relatively disappointing for Williams, Mercedes and Ferrari increased the gap, Red Bull surged past and began winning again and Force India managed to nab fourth place, Hulkenburg’s pass around the outside of Suzuka’s final chicane being a metaphor for the battle between the two, the Force India driving into the distance, away from the Williams.
2017 sees a massive overhaul in the technical regulations, the cars are wider, the teams are allowed more aero parts on the cars and the tires are wider and less sensitive to temperature change, which will allow the drivers to push more during the races. Williams interpretation comes in the form of the FW40 (named to celebrate team’s 40th year in the sport) was the first car to (sort of) be revealed, the team released a digital render of the car a day before Sauber officially launched their car.
The car features a shark fin, common on many cars this year, but is one of few to have a T wing mounted on the end of the fin. The front and rear wings have been swept back as per this new rules and the thumb nose remains on the end of a front that also features an S duct, which was run by Mercedes last season. The team haven’t been as aggressive with the side aero as Mercedes or Ferrari, rather going down a similar path as Red Bull, going with a more simplistic design. Toward the end of testing the car sprouted a second wing, similar to the T wing, much lower, almost with touching distance of the rear wing. The rakes at the start of the sidepod’s remain, as do the tuning veins to the side of these, but they have been extended, to take advantage of the width increase for this season. Title sponsor Martini’s livery remains, with it’s brilliant white base and flowing stripes, which do look slightly odd, the way they widen along the shark fin the abruptly end. The team have cemented a new partnership with heavy vehicles manufacturer JCB and Stroll brings a reported £20 million to the team.
Williams’ driver situation is well documented, Rosberg’s shock retirement left a seat at Mercedes and it quickly became clear that it would be Bottas who would replace him at one of the sports top seats. With F3 champion Lance Stroll already signed and Martini’s requirement for an experienced driver over 25 to be one of the driver’s, the only option was to coax Massa out of retirement. The Brazilian quickly agreed and the shortest retirement in F1 history was complete. Stroll has had a tough start in testing, with a couple of accidents in the first test, but it is better he does it in testing rather than in Melbourne (like Maldonado in 2012). This should be Massa’s final year in F1, I imagine he will be consistent and quick, a good point scorer and if Stroll is even with him or outperforms the Brazilian, he will have performed well.
One must always be careful reading into testing too much, but everyone knows that the Mercedes engine in the back of the Williams will be powerful and reliable. The car looks fast enough, maybe not on the pace of Ferrari or Mercedes, but the team look to be at the top of the midfield and looking forward. Williams look to be set for another showdown with Force India and will be determined to take back fourth or higher in the constructors. Renault could be a threat if their engine is good enough, but realistically Williams have to beat Force India this year, try and get more podiums this year to elevate themselves up the grid and toward the “big three” (Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams).
The team need a strong start to the season, as the inevitable development race will be triggered at the beginning of the European season. If a rival makes a large leap ahead of Williams in that time, the Grove squad will need a points buffer whilst they work to retaliate. The first few races could prove unpredictable affairs as the drivers adjust to the new racing that the new rules will provide. Massa’s experience will be vital in this situation, as he has driven through multiple rules changes. Stroll needs a strong start, Formula One is a tough world if you aren’t performing and his testing incidents will have put a few more eyes on the Canadian.
Over the course of its forty-year history, the Williams team has taken some of the biggest names in Formula One to the heights of world title glory. As part of our Williams Week celebrations, James Matthews looks back through the career of their very first champion—the inimitable, no-quarter Australian, Alan Jones.
Despite the success that was to come, Jones’ racing career didn’t get off to the most fortuitous of starts. After following in the motorsport footsteps of his father, Stan Jones, by racing Minis and Coopers in his native Australia, Jones made the bold decision to leave home in 1967 and try his luck on the European circuit.
But almost immediately, Jones found he had severely underestimated the financial realities of racing in Europe. His talent and tenacity was rarely in question, but without a major backer that counted for little, and by 1974 his dream looked to be over before it had even begun—until, that is, a chance meeting in the Formula Atlantic paddock with former racer and privateer team owner Harry Stiller. Here at last was the lifeline Jones so sorely needed: impressed by what the Australian could do on track, Stiller purchased a Hesketh 308 and arranged for Jones to make his Formula One debut in the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.
Once into F1, Jones’ career truly began to take off. Moving away from Stiller’s privateer outfit, he put in points-scoring performances for both the Hill and Surtees teams and established himself as a figure admired for both his hustling inside the cockpit and laid-back personality outside of it; it was during this time that he also became a close friend of James Hunt, who gave Jones the nickname “Big Al”.
His breakthrough season came in 1977, when the tragic death of Tom Pryce in that year’s South African Grand Prix led to an opening at the Shadow team. Despite the ominous circumstances surrounding it, Jones grasped the opportunity with both hands and used it to make his mark on the sport, by turning a points-capable car into a leftfield winner at the wet-dry Austrian Grand Prix—a victory so unexpected that the organisers didn’t even have the Australian national anthem to play during the podium ceremony.
With a maiden Grand Prix win under his belt, Jones was now firmly in the spotlight for the 1978 season, and shortly after leaving the Österreichring he received an invitation to Italy to discuss driving for none other than Enzo Ferrari himself.
In the end, however, Jones’ Ferrari dream became another of F1’s “what if?” moments. The Scuderia opted instead for Gilles Villeneuve, and Jones turned to his old friend Frank Williams, who was looking for a top driver to energise his fledgling eponymous team; after meeting in secret beside a motorway near Didcot, the pair agreed to join forces for the ’78 season.
The partnership was a winning one from the start. Together with Williams’ guidance and Patrick Head’s designs, Jones was able to deliver the Williams team’s first podium at the 1978 US Grand Prix, before going better again to take four wins in the following year’s FW07.
In 1980, Jones found himself at the very top of the field for the first time in his F1 career. His first outings in the FW07B yielded a win in Argentina and a third place in Brazil, followed by another two wins and four further podiums across the eight-race European leg—indeed, such was the pace of the Williams that Jones never completed a race that year in any position lower than third.
The season quickly became known for the intense title contest between Jones and future Williams champion Nelson Piquet, and when the two lined up together on the front row at the penultimate round in Canada they were separated by just a single point in the Brazilian’s favour.
Considering the title that was on the line the race began in suitably dramatic fashion, as Jones and Piquet made contact off the line and triggered a pileup at the first corner. Both men were able to restart the race, but the Cosworth engine in Piquet’s spare car was still tuned to qualifying specification and was as fragile as it was fast—after twenty-three laps it blew up, gifting Jones the lead of the race and ultimately the championship.
With his triumph in 1980, Alan Jones became the first Australian driver to win the F1 title since Jack Brabham, and together with his teammate Carlos Reutemann helped Frank Williams’ team to the first of its nine Constructors’ Championships.
The following year Jones returned with Williams to defend his title and again began the season with a win. But between a renewed Nelson Piquet and the fractious intra-team conflict with Reutemann, Jones could manage only one more victory in 1981 and conceded the title by four points to Piquet.
At the end of 1981 Jones announced his departure from both Williams and Formula One. In ’82 he returned home to dominate the Australian GT championship in a Porsche 935, and in ’84 finished in sixth place at Le Mans and fourth at Bathurst; the following year, a one-off return to single seaters saw him make the podium substituting for Mario Andretti in the ’85 Wisconsin Champ Car race.
But although Jones would also revisit the F1 grid multiple times following his first retirement, first with Arrows and then the ill-fated Haas Lola squad, he was to add only four more points to a career that included twelve Grand Prix victories, six pole positions and the 1980 World Championship.
The achievements of Alan Jones may always suffer from being seen in the shadow of his successors—the superstars of the ‘80s, Piquet, Prost, Senna and Mansell. But whilst he may not match their tallies of wins and titles, Jones’ 1980 championship remains as integral a part of the Williams story as any of those that followed—for if nothing else, Alan Jones will always be their first.
As part of the Crew’s Williams Week, Aaron Irwin looks at Williams’ involvement in the BTCC during the mid to late 90’s.
The British Touring Car Championship has always been a fantastic race series, full of close, tight racing. However when you ask most which era was the best? It’s undoubtedly the Super Touring era.
The 90’s were a great time for the series, with drivers such as Gabriele Tarquini, Alain Menu and Frank Biela all making names for themselves in the BTCC. I’ll be looking at Williams’ participation in what was a hugely competitive era for the racing series.
1994 was a solid season for Renault, they replaced the dated 19 for the new Laguna. Young Swiss driver Alain Menu was partnered by 1992 champion Tim Harvey. Together they won three races between them and Menu came second in the championship behind the dominant Tarquini in the Alfa Romeo 155.
In September 1994 the Williams Formula One team and Renault announced their new partnership. It was created so Williams could expand their motorsport involvement past F1 and Renault could challenge further for the BTCC crown.
1991 champion Will Hoy came in to replace Harvey, who left for Volvo. Menu continued to show he was a champion in the making, winning seven races, including the first for the new Williams backed team at Thruxton in round five. He again finished second in the championship, this time to BTCC legend John Cleland. Hoy had a less successful season, struggling with reliability in the first half of the season, Hoy managed to win three races in the second half and finish fourth.
While there wasn’t instant success in the Driver’s Championship, Williams-Renault won the Manufacturer’s championship in their debut season working together.
It’s key to remember during this time, in Formula One Williams Renault were fighting for titles too, with Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost winning the title in 1992 and 1993 respectively. Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher played out titanic battles for the championship in 1994 and 1995, with the Benetton driver coming out on top in both occasions.
Williams had their time to shine again however as Hill won the title in 1996 with team mate Jacques Villeneuve following suit in 1997. They were the dominant team during these two seasons and no one could match them, not even the might of Schumacher and Ferrari.
Meanwhile back to 1996 and in the BTCC Renault had a new foe, following the success of BMW and Alfa Romeo in previous years, Audi decided they’d try their hand at BTCC. Bringing in Frank Biela they dominated the season, with Biela taking his only BTCC title win.
Menu was considered the hot favourite for the title before the season, but Audi’s four wheel drive A4 Quattro dominated. The Swiss driver still managed to win four races, including a clean sweep at the Brands Hatch GP meeting in rounds 13 and 14.
He again finished second in the title race for the third successive season, Biela dominated, with the gap between him and Menu being 92 points. Hoy finished ninth with two second places at the season opening Donington Park rounds being his best result. He moved to Ford for 1997, with Jason Plato replacing him at Renault.
Though Plato had made hard work of it. He was in the running along with ex-F1 drivers Gianni Morbidelli and Jean Christophe Boullion (more on him later) for the second seat. After being overlooked Plato travelled down to Williams’ base in Grove and waited for Sir Frank Williams to arrive.
After chasing him down the car park, Plato was eventually given the second seat at Williams-Renault for what would prove to be a hugely successful season for
The dominant Audi team were controversially penalised with extra weight penalties applied to their A4’s. It was relaxed later on in the season but this would be Williams’ year.
Menu won 12 of the 24 rounds to take his first title. Plato proved his worth to Williams and his potential by winning two rounds to give Renault a dominant clean sweep of the championships. Menu won the title by 110 points, with Audi’s Biela in second.
The pair also raced in the 1997 Bathurst 1000, with Williams running two cars. 1980 F1 world champion Alan Jones was in the second car. Menu and Plato led for a long time, but unfortunately both cars failed to finish.
1998 however saw change for Williams, Nescafe came in as title sponsor, and the team renamed Blend 37 Williams Renault. Menu and Plato were kept on. But the competition caught up in what is regarded as one of the most open and best seasons in the series’ history.
Rickard Rydell in the Volvo won the title, Nissan’s Anthony Reid took second, James Thompson of Honda third with Menu and Plato fourth and fifth, 91 points separated the top five. Four wins between the two Renault drivers as it was clear the competition was a lot tougher than 1997.
I for one feel incredibly nostalgic about that era, mainly because my mum and dad bought me ToCA 2 Touring Cars for my PlayStation. It was based on the 1998 season and that green Nescafe Renault is still my favourite touring car ever.
Menu was pragmatic about his title winning season, quoted as saying: “I think last year on some tracks we were not the quickest car but we ended up winning the championship because we made less mistakes than the other guys. So hopefully this year (1998) will be the same.”
The Swiss driver left for Ford for 1999, ending a six season partnership with Renault. This meant Jean-Christophe Boullion joined Plato at Renault. It was their least successful season under the Williams partnership.
Now a Ford driver, Menu commented on the state of his former team, saying in a March 1999 issue of Autosport: “I’ve got to say they’re leaving it a bit late. “If they’ve got any problems they won’t have much time to fix them. They’re playing with fire a little bit.” Plato defended Renault: “It’s late because we want to make it right.”
However it would be Menu who was right, engine troubles meant Renault had a poor season, winning just one race, at Silverstone. This led to Renault pulling
out of the BTCC along with a host of other works teams, such as Volvo and Nissan, sparking the end of the golden age of BTCC racing.
It’d be fair to say the Williams-Renault BTCC partnership was an unmitigated success, with two Manufacturer’s championships in five years of racing. Not to mention this was in an incredibly competitive era where Audi, Volvo, Nissan, Vauxhall, Honda, and to an extent Ford were all capable of winning races.
Alain Menu became a BTCC legend, winning a second title with Ford in 2000. Plato also made a name of himself after pushing through the door to get his drive. Both have won two world titles each, and the 1997 season is still seen as one of the most dominant and successful for any BTCC team.
2011 German Grand Prix – Friday
22nd July 2011
Pastor Maldonado, Williams FW33 Cosworth.
Photo: Steven Tee/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _A8C4283If I asked you to name five legends of Formula One I bet you’d name all drivers, right? I’d probably do the same, but how could anyone miss Sir Frank Williams from their list? The man is a living legend and has come through so much adversity during his life he really should be top of any legend list.
Frank was born in South Shields in 1942 to an RAF officer and special needs teacher, he spent much or his later childhood at St Joseph’s college a private boarding school.
It was in the late 1950s when Frank became hooked on fast cars after a friend gave him a lift in a Jaguar XK150, Personally I think we have a lot to thank this anonymous friend for, if he hadn’t given Frank a lift we may not have had, what is arguably, one of the finest Formula One teams of all time.
Before setting up Frank Williams Racing in 1966 he had a brief career as a driver and mechanic. He made his racing debut in 1961 driving an Austin A40 saloon, thereafter progressing to F3 racing both as a mechanic and driver which he funded by working as a traveling grocery salesman.
During the days of Frank Williams Racing he ran cars in Formula Two and Formula Three, in 1969 he purchased ad Brabham Formula one chassis which driver Piers Courage drove through that season, twice finishing in second place.
1970 saw the death of Courage at the Dutch Grand Prix, Frank entered into a brief partnership with Alejandro de Tomaso a partnership that ended in 1971, also in that year Frank purchased a chaises from March Engineering and ran a race car driven by French man Henri Pescarolo.
In 1972 Williams Works built their first F1 car designed by Len Bailey and called the Politoys FX3, unfortunately, Pescarolo crashed it and destroyed it in the first race of the year.
By this point, Frank was short on money and had started conducting his business from a phone box due to the fact his own phone had been cut off because he hadn’t paid the bill!
Frank decided it was time to seek sponsorship and turned to Marlboro and Italian car company Iso Rivolta, they initially agreed the deal never materialised which meant Frank was still short on cash and still searching for a sponsor, in 1976 he finally found the sponsorship he was looking for in Walter Wolf the oil tycoon.
1977 saw Frank leave Frank Williams Racing along with a young engineer called Patrick Head. The two of the bought a disused carpet warehouse in Oxford and so began the Williams Grand Prix engineering.
These days we know the team as simply WilliamsF1, although Frank has eased his role passing the reigns to his daughter Claire, he can still be seen at many races.
Frank has overcome many trials and tribulations in his life, none less than the horrific car accident that he had in March 1986.
Frank was leaving the Paul Richard circuit
on a journey to Nice airport in his Ford Sierra rental when he lost control of the car. It was very unfortunate that there was an eight-foot drop between the field the car was heading for and the road, the car landed on the driver’s side resulting in Frank being pressed between the seat and the roof causing a spinal fracture since the accident Frank has been confined to a wheelchair.
One would find it hard to write anything about Frank Williams and not include the untimely death of Ayrton Senna, under Italian law Frank was charged with manslaughter although he was cleared many years later.
Frank has been quoted as saying “Ayrton was a great man he had that fierce competitive spirit that every racing driver should have. But off the track, he was a calm, charming man and that’s what made him stand out”
Frank married his wife Virginia in 1967. they had three children Jamie, Jonathan, and Claire, Ginny, as she was known by many, sadly passed away in 2013
Frank was awarded a CBE in 1987 by the queen, then in 1999, he was knighted.
He was made a Chevalier of France’s Legion d’honneur an honnour which was presented to him for his work with Renault.
2008 saw Frank awarded the Wheatcroft trophy which is presented to people who have made significant contributions to the motorsports world.
On December 19th, 2010 Frank was awarded the Helen Rollason Award for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity.
Frank even has a street in Didcot named after him.
Now let me ask you the same question I asked earlier, would you now put Sir Frank on or even at the top of your list?
A six-season partnership that for four years were the upstarts in the face of the all-conquering combination of Michael Schumacher.
Williams lost their factory Renault engines at the end of 1997 and it took until 2000 for them to find another factory engine with BMW. The first line-up of that era featured the experienced Ralf Schumacher in his second year with the team and 20-year-old rookie Jenson Button – at the time the youngest ever Formula One driver.
While expectations for their season back in Formula One were low, 2000 proved to be a solid start to the season for BMW Williams. Ralf Schumacher’s consistent driving took him to fifth place with 24 points (Only the top 6 scored in those days) behind the dominant Ferrari and McLaren quartet of Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard. Button impressed in his first season, finishing a solid eighth on 12 while the team’s three podiums all went to Schumacher, with third place finishes in Australia, Belgium and Italy.
2001 was BMW Williams’ breakthrough year. Juan Pablo Montoya joined from Indycars after success in Champ cars and the Indianapolis 500 joined and Button was loaned to the ailing Benetton team. The BMW engine was more powerful and Montoya was in line for his first victory in just his third race at the Brazilian Grand Prix, before a bizarre accident when lapping the Arrows of Jos Verstappen as the Dutchman drove over the back of the Colombian’s car.
Ralf Schumacher took the first victory for Williams since 1997 at the San Marino Grand Prix, dominating after snatching the lead from David Coulthard at the start of the race. His second career win was historic in that it was the first time in Formula One history that siblings had finished first and second as he led home Michael at the Canadian Grand Prix. Schumacher’s third victory came during his home race at the final race around the old Hockenheimring later that season.
Montoya did win a race in his debut season despite a number of technical issues and collisions when he was the class of the field at the Italian Grand Prix. Schumacher finished the season fourth, just seven points behind Barrichello as his brother walked away with his fourth World Drivers’ Championship. Montoya was beaten to fifth by the retiring Hakkinen, the team taking four wins and a further five podiums on their way to third in the standings.
Ferrari were to increase their stranglehold over F1 in 2002, although on occasion Williams did threaten. Williams overhauled McLaren, but their only victory in 2002 was a splendid 1-2 led home by Ralf at the Malaysian Grand Prix to provide the fans and paddock with ultimately false hope that Ferrari would be challenged after 2001. In reality, Ferrari were never off the podium and won the Constructors’ Championship by 129 points, with Williams second on 92.
The 2003 season was as good as it got for BMW Williams. Montoya’s excellent form during the summer almost won him the title, with points npw awarded to the top eight. Ralf Schumacher’s fifth place saw the team finish a much closer second to Ferrari in the constructors in what was the closest Championship fight since 1999.
An indifferent first six races for Montoya heralded three retirements and 15 points as Williams initially struggled for consistency. His season was transformed after victory at the Monaco Grand Prix, during which he led home Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher as the trio were covered by 1.7 seconds.
That victory sparked a run of eight straight podiums including another win at a crash-strewn German Grand Prix lap to leave the Colombian three points behind Schumacher with two races left. Ralf briefly brought himself into contention with a stellar run of form as he won two straight races at the European and French Grands Prix, before tailing off with bad luck and injury.
A drive-through penalty for a collision with Barrichello at the US Grand Prix served just as the heavens opened meant Montoya was condemned to sixth place, which combined with Schumacher’s victory ended his title aspirations with one race left.
After a strong 2003, big things were expected for a 2004 that never took off. BAR and Renault became F1’s new kids on the block and Montoya was on the podium only three times. His triumph at the Brazilian Grand Prix at the end of the season was the last of the BMW era.
Ralf Schumacher suffered broken vertebrae in his back at the US Grand Prix and was forced to miss six races, with his place taken firstly by Marc Gene and Antonio Pizzonia. With Montoya fifth, he was ninth in the standings as BMW Williams limped to fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.
Montoya left to join McLaren for 2005 and Schumacher joined the ambitious Toyota outfit, and the final season of BMW’s association with Williams was contested with Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld at the helm.
Heidfeld was on the podium in Malaysia before a famous 2-3 finish behind the imperious Raikkonen at Monaco, but results dried up as BMW announced their intentions to buy Sauber to form their own factory team.
Webber would end the season tenth on 36 points while Heidfeld left Williams 11th on 28 after missing the final five races, with the team fifth in the Constructors’ Championship in their final year with BMW.
Williams did not buy customer engines from BMW for 2006 and thus ended a six-season partnership during which they scored 10 wins, with 2003 a highlight as they challenged for the title for the only time since Jacques Villeneuve’s 1997 triumph.
After spells with Cosworth, Toyota and Renault the team are now supplied by Mercedes and came closest to winning only their second Grand Prix since the BMW contract ended with a front row lockout by Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.
The majority of the BMW era will be remembered for Williams being the only team to consistently mount a challenge to the Ferrari juggernaut.
History has special significance in the world of Formula One.
A comprehensive list of special history making feats is a story for another time, instead and in celebration of the Williams F1 team, we look at their part in the careers of two drivers who each form one part of the only two father and son combinations to have won drivers titles; Damon Hill and Nico Rosberg.
What else can be said about the son of F1 Champion Graham Hill except for legendary. For many, Hill will forever trigger memories of the blue and white colour’s of the Rothmans Williams team, with whom he won his title in 1996. It was the combination of Frank Williams & Patrick Head that gave Hill, then 33, a seat and rest, as they say, is history.
Hill spent 3 seasons will Williams, culminating in his historic title win during the 1996 season. But it was his steadfast determination, guts and tough skin that saw him move from spinning out in his first race to taking three victories by seasons end in 1993.
1994 will forever be remembered as modern F1’s darkest year, the year we lost Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger. Senna had been Hill’s teammate and at the wheel of the Williams during the San Marino Grand Prix. Hill, through the storm cloud of grief and anger that fell over F1, lead the team as team leader through what remains a painful wound on the soul of F1 and finished 2nd in the championship to Michael Schumacher.
1995 proved difficult for Hill, but in 1996 he would prove his detractors wrong, by cementing his place in history and becoming Drivers World Champion. While it would prove to be his last with Williams, Hill rewarded the faith that Sir Frank had placed in him, which would be repeated with another driver many years later.
The reigning world champion retired at the end of the 2016 season to the sadness of many of his fans. While his title was achieved under the banner of the Mercedes F1 team, like Hill, Rosberg too had Williams place faith in his young talent.
The son of F1 champion Keke Rosberg, began his career at the Williams team in 2006. His exploits in the Engineering aptitude test aside, Rosberg spent 4 seasons with the team and immediately broke a record in the first season, becoming the then youngest driver to set a fastest lap.
In 2008 he scored his first podium in F1 and also lead a Grand Prix for the first time under the floodlights of Singapore, which ultimately saw him finish in 2nd place.
2009 and his final season, Rosberg single handedly gave Williams 6th place in the constructors championship, earning every point for his team.
Williams had placed faith in a rookie driver, who relied on his intelligence and skill, much like Hill, and gave him a break into F1. More importantly, they kept him in the team based on his skill before he moved to Mercedes and his eventual title.
What, you may ask, is Williams role in these history making title wins? The answer to that is simple: Williams have over their many years in F1 looked to nurture talent and break boundaries by placing their faith in drivers who they could see the bigger brighter future with.
Williams have always had a firm place in the hearts of most drivers for the way in which Sir Frank was unapologetic for his choices in drivers, even when the paddock questioned him. You may say, “well they would have probably got a drive elsewhere”.
They didn’t, their drives were with Williams. The tenure of an F1 driver is one of the most uncertain things about the sport and many a rookie is simply not given the time and support to prove his worth. Williams put faith in both Hill and Rosberg, supported them and saw them gain the experience that was necessary to take their respective eventual titles.
That’s arguably all a driver wants… and a fast car of course!
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.