This Sunday will mark the 750th race for Williams Racing. A remarkable achievement in modern Formula 1, although Williams Racing is not the force it once was, they have achieved great things since entering as a Constructor in 1978, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane with Williams Racing.
After the break down with the Wolf-Williams partnership, Frank Williams decided to go it alone, Williams Racing was founded in 1977 (using a March 761), the first Patrick Head designed Williams FW06 appearing a year later.
Williams Racing did not have to wait long for their first win, Clay Regazzoni driving the FW07 took the chequered flag at the 1979 British Grand Prix. This began a period of early success for the new team with the World Drivers Championship in 1980, with Alan Jones, the constructors Championships in 1980 and 1981. Keke Rosberg won the 1982 season for Williams despite only winning one race.
From 1983, Williams had a new engine partner, Williams developed the Honda V6 turbo-charged engine. By 1986 they were the class of the field, however the season was running under the shadow, due to an accident that seriously injured Frank Williams. The 1986 season ended with the Williams team taking the Constructors Championship, however they lost out on the Drivers Championship to Alain Prost in the McLaren-TAG.
Williams did one better in 1987 winning the Drivers Championship with Nelson Piquet taking his third Drivers Championship.
Following on from the departure of the Honda engine, who, despite success, moved over to power Lotus and McLaren in 1988, Williams went into a short period of rebuilding, first with customer JUDD engines and then with Renault as a works team.
The famous partnership of Williams Renault was born, along with the addition of Adrian Newey Williams Racing were again the team to beat, successive titles in 1992 and 1993 with Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost, respectively.
1994 saw the addition of Ayrton Senna to the team, Frank Williams was a known fan of the legendary Brazilian driver, he had tried on a few occasions to get Ayrton to drive for Williams, however the partnership did not start well and ended in tragedy at the Imola Grand Prix.
Following Ayrton Senna’s death Williams won the 1996 Championship with Damon Hill and then repeated the feat with Jacques Villeneuve in 1997. Unfortunately, 1997 was the last titles for the Williams team. The withdrawal of the Renault as engine supplier effected the team quite hard, some thing that the team have struggled to recover from.
A partnership with BMW should have led with Championships, however this failed to materialize. The partnership ended when BMW decided to take over the running of Sauber rather than remain in a partnership with Williams.
After the end of the BMW partnership Williams were stuck around the midfield (and lower), for 2006 the team signed up with Cosworth, they managed a season best result of 6th at the Bahrain and San Marino Grand Prix, however the FW28 driven by Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg was unreliable, retiring 20 times over the course of the season (11 for Webber and 9 for Rosberg).
Williams decided to enter a partnership with Toyota, leading to an increase in fortune for the team, Alex Wurz would take a podium at the Canadian Grand Prix, leading to a 4th place on the constructor’s table.
This upturn in fortune was short-lived, over the next few seasons the highest the team would finish in the Constructors table was in 2010 when they managed 6th with Barrichello and Hulkenburg driving the FW32, Williams would remain in the midfield for the following few seasons trading between 8th and 9th until 2014.
With the talented paring of Valtteri Bottas and Filipe Massa and powered by a Mercedes Power Unit they managed to achieve back-to-back “best of the rest” results, finishing in 3rd in the Constructors table. The team would return to the podium countless times over the course of the next 2 years, however the elusive victory escaped them.
Back of the grid
Williams Racing began to slide down the order from 2016, with the FW38 and FW39 they could only manage 5th in the Constructors Table. The downward trend was startling as it was quick, Williams finished the 2018 season last in the constructors table with only 7 points, they have remained at the bottom of the table with 1 point in 2019 and no points in 2020.
The Williams Family bow out
Claire Williams, who was Deputy Team Principle for the Williams Team announced in May of 2020 that the team was up for sale, this was done to secure funding to allow them to continue operating.
Dorilton Capital were announced as the new owners of the team in August of that year brining and end to the last true family run Formula 1 team.
The Williams family announced they were stepping away from the team and Formula 1 in September 2020.
A New Era
With the team being purchased by Dorilton Capital, it now has the investment needed to head closer to the front of the grid, the new owners have started quickly with the appointment of Jost Capito as CEO, Jost comes with a wealth of experience from within the motoring industry, working with BMW Motorsport, Porsche, Sauber, Ford, Volkswagen, and a short stint at McLaren.
With Simon Roberts being confirmed as the Team Principle and some key recruitment in the backroom, we could see the Williams team heading closer to where they belong, at the front.
The team have not seen the top step of the podium since 2012, I am sure that day will come and when it does, I will have a tear in my eye and a smile on my face, such is the affection that most of not all fans of Formula 1 has for the Williams name.
They may not be the force they once were, but they have provided us with so many great moments over the years, hopefully many more to come.
Thank you, Sir Frank, and the Williams family, for everything here is to another 750 races ….