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WilliamsF1

By Tom Collantine

Full name: AT&T Williams F1 TeamWilliams logo
Base: Grove, United Kingdom
Team Principal: Frank Williams, Patrick Head
First GP: 1975 Argentinean GP

Pole Positions: 125
Highest race position: 1st (x113)
Highest championship position: 1st (x9)
Drivers: Rubens Barrichello (9) and Nico Hülkenberg (10)
Test drivers: Valtteri Bottas

Team biography

Williams GP started off in 1969 as Frank Williams Racing Cars. He ran a mixture of other people’s chassis’s.

In 1970 Piers Courage was sadly killed at Zandvoort, after that Frank struggled financially running with the aid of pay-drivers and hope came in the form of Walter Wolf but the relationship ended badly in 1976 leading to Williams to build his own team. Frank teamed up with a young Patrick Head which led to the birth of the Williams team we know today.

To date Williams have competed in over 1190 races winning 113 and amassing over 2600 points. They were at their most successful in the eighties and throughout the nineties. But through a combination of first Renault then later BMW engine suppliers pulling out they have been struggling to keep up with the leaders since, winning there last race way back in Brazil 2004, with Montoya taking the win form Kimi Raikkonen by just a second,

Early Years

In there first proper season in 1977 Williams used a customer March 761 chassis, with just the single driver of Patrick Neve. Competing in only 11 races they finished with no points, there best result was a seventh at the Italian race.

For their second season Patrick Head designed their first ever chassis called the FW06 (since then all William’s chassis have been similarly named). They still ran with a single driver but with proven race winner Alan Jones. It only took until the third round for Frank and his team to score their first point with a fine fourth place in South Africa. Their first ever podium came at the American GP and they finished the year with 16 points and tenth in the constructors championship.

After obtaining FOTA memberships Williams ran with two cars from 1979 onwards. With Alan Jones being partnered by Swiss driver Clay Regazzoni, it was Regazzoni that nearly took their first win but narrowly missed out finishing just under a second behind race winner Jody Scheckter. However, their wait wouldn’t be for much longer as they won 5 out of the next 6 races! With Regazzoni taking there first ever win – made even sweeter by the fact it was there home GP in Britain – it was followed by there first 1-2 in Germany with Jones taking the honours ahead of Clay. Two more wins followed for Jones before winning the final race of the season in Canada, in total they scored 75 points and finished 2nd in the WCC in only their second proper year.

80’s

Having gone exceptionally well in 1979, Williams managed to go one better at the start of the 80’s with Alan Jones – now being partnered by Carlos Reutemann – winning 5 races to become the first of seven WDC for the team. They ended the year winning the WCC with almost twice as many points as the second place constructor on 120 points.

This formidable partnership shared 4 wins in 1981 but could not manage a second successive WDC but the team still claimed the constructor’s title with 95points.

Alan Jones left the team ahead of the 1982 season and was replaced by Keke Rosberg, and despite never having scored a point in the previous season and only taking 1 win in ’82 he won the title by 5 points ahead of Didier Peroni.

The team suffered a poor spell after ’82, picking up the odd win here and there until 1986. In the final race of the season in Australia either Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet snr or the unfavoured Alain Prost could have won the title. All was going well for Frank and his team until Mansell’s left rear tyre blew sending him out of the race, as a precaution the team pitted Piquet but it resulted him in losing the title. The team did manage to win the WCC but this was of little comfort to Frank as earlier in the year had suffered a horrible car crash and was now permanently wheel chair bound.

1987 saw Williams unveil the beautiful FW11b powered by the ever reliable Honda engine, the team won 9 races taking the WCC with 137pts, 61pts ahead of McLaren. Despite this and Piquet taking the WDC, Honda left Williams at the end of the season in favour of second placed McLaren. The team without a leading engine supplier for 1988 didn’t win a single race, finishing 7th with 20pts.

In 1989 Williams were to be partnered by Renault, it was to be a deadly partnership until Renault quit the sport in 1997. However, their first race together was not a good one with new driver Thierry Boutsen retiring with a blown engine. They managed to win two races in a year dominated by McLaren. Their first was a 1-2 in Canada, and their second was the final round of the year in Australia. They finished the year with 77 pts and second in the WCC. It also meant Williams had took the first and last wins of the 1980’s

90’s

It was a poor start to the ‘90s, Patrese picking up their only wins at Imola and Boutsen secured their only pole at Hungary.

In 1991 Boutsen left Williams and was replaced by the returning Nigel Mansell after his spell at Ferrari. The team faired much better winning seven races and accumulating 125 points to finish second.

The team managed to go one better again in 1992 in a season they truly dominated thanks to being the first team to successfully utilize fully active suspension and a semi automatic gearbox. With Nigel taking a then record of 5 wins in the first 5 races, narrowly missing out on making it 6 straight wins with a hard fought race with Senna at Monaco. Mansell went on to win a further 4 races ending on 9 wins setting a then new record for most wins by a single driver in a season. In total Frank Williams team won ten races (Riccardo Patrese picking up a solitary win in Japan) collecting 164 points, finishing 65points ahead of McLaren. Mansell and Patrese similarly demolished the WDC with Nigel winning by 52 points over his team-mate who ended the year in second place.

The start of 1993 was controversial for the Grove based team as Mansell and Patrese battled Senna and Prost for the two race seats. Patrese left to join Benetton while Prost was signed by Williams. Prost’s contract stipulated that Senna could not be his team-mate which ended Ayton’s hopes of a 4th Title as by now McLaren had lost their Honda engines and were left using less powerful Ford V8s. Mansell left Williams to go into Indy car preferring that to having to partner Prost again. This left Williams in need of a second driver which they found in their 1992 reserve driver Damon Hill, son of former champion Graham Hill.

By now Williams had perfected there fully active suspension and traction control system which teamed up with the powerful Renault V10 made an unbeatable package, they again won 10 out of 16 races. This time Prost took seven to Hill’s three, Alain won Williams there 5th WDC and together with Hill secured the teams 6th WCC.  This was to be Alains last season in F1 as he retired allowing his long time rival Ayrton Senna to take his place for 1994 and many were predicting another Williams’ Renault white wash.

During pre-season the FIA had banned driver aids leaving Williams without many of their technological advantages they had over the other teams of the last few years. The rule changes led to a poor car and heading into the first race the team were already planning a whole host of upgrades. Ayrton still managed to grab the first two poles of the year but didn’t manage to finish either race.

At the first European round of the year at Imola, Senna again qualified on pole but after a start line incident led to the safety car being deployed, when the race resumed Senna mysteriously went off at the Tamburello curve slamming into the wall. Senna was later pronounced dead.

The whole world was still shock by the death of Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger in qualifying the day before. The repercussions for Frank Williams and his team were massive as the Italian prosecutors attempted to charge them with manslaughter, they were found innocent though we may never know what had caused Senna to crash.

For the rest of the season Hill was partnered by David Coulthard with Nigel Mansell returning to fill in for the odd race. In total Williams won six races and took six poles in what was a bleak year for the team. Entering the final race of the year at Adelaide Hill was just one point behind Schumacher but an error from the German let Hill pounce but the two collided leaving both out of the race and Michael the champion. The only consolation to Williams was winning the Constructors championship again by 15 points.

In 1995 Renault supplied both Williams and Benetton and it was to be the end of Williams’ dominance of the WCC, as Michael and Benetton dominated the season. The only highlight being a 1-2 for the team in Hungary.

’95 was to be a blip though for Williams as in 1996 Damon Hill ended his 5 year wait to win the WDC beating his rookie team-mate Jacques Villeneuve by 97pts to 78. Williams won 12 races during ’96 half of them were 1-2’s to make sure they ended the WCC over 100 points ahead of runners-up Ferrari.

As in ’92 and ’93 Williams failed to hold onto their champion driver. Frank thought Heinz-Harald Frentzen would perform better than Hill but this was not to be the case as Frentzens only victory came in Imola, Jacques Villeneuve in only his second season in F1 won the WDC and aided in Williams in not only claiming there 100th GP victory but also there 9th and currently final Constructors championship.

’97 was there final year with Renault and as exactly ten years ago Williams were without a major engine supplier.

For 1998 Williams were forced to use Mecachrome engines which were effectively year old Renault units. Another thing that stayed the same was the driver line-up which meant that for the first time since Keke Rosbergs’ ’82 title Williams kept their title winning driver. Despite having a car that closely resembled there 1997 entry they managed to finish 3rd albeit nearly a hundred points behind second place Ferrari.

For the final season of the 1990’s Williams signed Alex Zanardi and Ralf Schumacher, it was to be their worst season of the decade claiming only three podiums and scoring 35pts finishing in 5th place. Ahead of the millennium Frank Williams was to be knighted having already been awarded his CBE in 1987.

‘00s

Williams had managed to secure BMW engines for the first 6 years of the ‘00s; one consequence was that they had to have a German driver which was a contributing factor behind Ralf’s employment in 1999. They also gave a debut season to young Briton Jenson Button.

The first season with BMW was not a successful one as they ended up with 1 more point than they had scored in 1999 again with 3 podiums.

For 2001 Button was replaced by the highly rated Juan-Pablo Montoya and for the first time since the European Gp in 1997 Williams once again tasted the victory champagne. They were to win 4 races in total that year with a debut season win for Montoya at Monza. They could of won many more but for reliability problems mixed with the usual Williams incompetency in the pit stops. 2002 was a year largely dominated by Ferrari, Williams only managed one win thanks to Ralf at Sepang, ( McLaren were to win the only other race not won by Ferrari that year). Franks’ men did move back into second place in the WCC scoring 92pts but it wasn’t a match to Ferraris 221pts.

2003 was the highlight year for the BMW Williams package as they mounted a serous title challenge; despite again only winning four races (two each for Ralf and Juan-Pablo). Montoya finished only 11pts behind Michael Schumacher in the driver’s title and only 14 points behind Ferrari in the constructor’s championship.

2004 started with the announcement that Juan-Pablo would be leaving the team to join McLaren for 2005 and it would be a blow for Williams as JPM was the most likely candidate to take Michaels WDC title from him.

Williams also caused a stir of their own on launch day with the unveiling of the FW26 or the “Walrus” as it came to be known, in a sport that defines beauty as victorious this was a dog of a car in every way. The team unceremoniously reverted to a more usual nose cone half way through the year. They visited the podium 6 times but only once to the top step at the final race of the year at Brazil, this was their 113 and final win.

For 2005 there was a total driver change, out went Ralf and Juan-Pablo (to Toyota and McLaren respectively) and in came Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld –the latter still as part of the BMW deal – rumours. A contract dispute saw the possibility of Jenson Button making a return to the Grove team until the FIA ruled in favour of his current team BAR.

But by now relationship between Frank and Mario Theissen was starting to get frosty with each blaming the other for the teams short comings in the WDC and WCC fight. Frank was reluctant to sign a German driver as he preferred Antonio Pizzonia. The team did manage to pick up four podiums in ’05 with two second places for Heidfeld at Monaco and the European round, ending the year 5th 22points behind Toyota.

2006 saw BMW and Nick Heidfeld leave Williams with the son of ex-Williams and former world champion Keke Rosberg, Nico joining the team. Frank did have a option of using BMW engines for ’06 but decided to use the Cosworths power plant. The season started well with a double points score and fastest lap for debutant Nico in the first race but it soon turned sour; 20 retirements out of 36 starts and no podiums meant it was Williams worst season since they official began in 1977. Williams closed a sad year with only 11pts, 5 of which came in that first race.

2007 saw yet more changes for the trouble team; out went Cosworth engines and in came Toyota, along with a new driver of Alex Wurz who replaced Redbull-bound Webber. Another famous F1 name joined the team in new test driver Kazuki Nakajima the son of former racer Satoru. Williams lost there Honda engines partly due to Frank Williams not signing Satoru, but hired Kazuki to keep the Toyota bosses happy. The team were to have a happier year with their new pairing and engine, Wurz picking up their only podium with a fine third place in Canada and Nico consistently sneaking into the points. For the final race of the season Kazuki got his big break replacing the newly retired Wurz, it was a eventful debut for the young Japanese driver; qualifying badly he moved through the field until he made his pit stop and promptly parked on top of his pit crew. Williams finished forth and nine points ahead of Redbull. Despite Kazukis’ calamities in Brazil he was signed to the second seat for 2008 alongside Nico Rosberg now entering his third year with the team.

The 2008 season wasn’t the best for the British squad. Williams did manage two podiums for Nico. They saw the season out with 26pts again and second bottom of those that scored points. The one positive note for the team was being awarded the Wheatcroft trophy which was an award given out to those who made a significant contribution to motorsport.

The 2009 season was better for the Grove based team, scoring consistently (only failing to score in 5 races) and finished just behind their engine suppliers Toyota.

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