The Williams name is one of the most iconic ones in Formula 1. With over 100 race victories, seven drivers’ titles, and nine constructors’ championships, the team is one of the most successful ones in the sport.
Founded back in 1977 by Sir Frank Williams and Sir Patrick Head, Williams Racing, has come a long way having the likes of F1 legends like Alan Jones, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, and Damon Hill, among others. The team is set to achieve a record when F1 descends onto the street of Monaco this year. Williams Racing would have taken part in 750 Grands Prix, becoming the third team, after Ferrari and McLaren to achieve this milestone.
This however is just one more achievement in the illustrious history of one of the most recognized names in Formula 1.
How It All Started for Williams Racing
Having known each other in the past, Sir Frank Williams and Sir Patrick Head met to talk about a proposition made by the former. Frank Williams was starting his own team and wanted Patrick Head to join him. Scraping up how much ever money they could, they got a driver, a car, an engine, a few employees, and for a base of operations, they moved into an old carpet factory. And so, Williams Grand Prix Engineering came into being.
It was decided that Williams would be in charge of managing the team and getting the funding, while Head would look after the design aspect and look over the operations. Teaming up as they did, the two ensured that the team made quick strides as a growing brand. In 1979, the team won their first-ever Grand Prix and in 1980, their first World Championship in the span of three years since the team was founded.
Their 1980 car which was designed by Head and was driven by Alan Jones won them both the titles. And it was with this that the team announced themselves as the new up-and-comers in the sport.
The team then had a bunch of serious ups and downs. When Sir Frank Williams was involved in an accident in 1986, Sir Patrick Head began to look after the overall management of the team. At the time, Williams Racing was using Honda engines and had a successful year having won the constructor’s championship. The following year, however, Honda decided that they would partner up with rivals McLaren to be able to work with Ayrton Senna.
McLaren agreed to still work with Williams Racing but they wanted Nigel Mansell to be replaced with a driver of their choice. The team could potentially see themselves behind their rivals if they had agreed to this. Moving on to using Judd engines for the period of a year, it wasn’t long before they got an offer to team up with Renault.
This partnership would in the long run benefit the team a lot, eventually winning them four driver’s titles and five constructor’s titles throughout the stint. But it wasn’t long before disaster struck.
The Loss Of A Legend
Racing at Imola in 1994, Formula 1 lost one of its most iconic names to a tragic accident. It was an unfortunate incident that cost the life of Ayrton Senna, a driver whose prowess and skill on the track and kind, affectionate, and generous nature off of it, is remembered to this day.
On lap 7, rounding the high-speed Tamburello corner, Senna’s car left the racing line and rammed into the thick concrete retaining wall at around 230 kilometers per hour. The sheer impact inflicted Senna with serious damage to the head, rendering him unconscious. Later on, after being airlifted to a nearby hospital, Senna was pronounced dead.
It was a dark day for the world, the sport, and the Williams Racing team, who Senna had been racing for. Sir Patrick Head was faced with a deep psychological struggle, contemplating whether or not he should continue in the sport. The team’s woes did not end there.
After Renault ultimately left the sport, Williams Racing bounced from one engine manufacturer to another before partnering up with BMW in 2000. This six-year stint got them 10 wins. The two split in 2005 when BMW set out to start their own team. Sir Patrick Head stepped down from his role in the team. After the end of the partnership with BMW, the team had ultimately begun to struggle, having achieved only one win to date in 2012, through the efforts of Pastor Maldonado in Spain.
The Williams Racing family bid farewell to the team last year after it was sold to Dorilton Capital, a private investment firm. Despite a poor run of form for the past few seasons, the team is starting to show signs that they are not a team that belongs at the back of the grid.
With much more investment from the new owners and a talented driver line-up of George Russell and Nicholas Latifi, Williams Racing has been resurfacing in terms of performance issues and has shown significant improvement despite not scoring any points, yet, this season.
Marking the milestone
Williams Racing – the brand, the team, and the name has and always will be a part of the history books of Formula 1 and motorsport in general. To mark their milestone, they used an online calculator that fans can use to calculate their race number. 100 lucky fans who used the calculator would have their names written on the halos of the two cars during the race weekend. The team members would also sport shirts with a number signifying the number of years they have spent with the team.
Given its contribution to the sport, the team looks at getting back to the glory days and will hopefully add more achievements and milestones to its long list.
That being said, ‘on va à Monaco’.