Once the most feared and dominant team in F1, Williams F1 has seen both good days and bad. Suffice (it) to say, the struggle to reclaim past glory continues. Williams F1 has a rich heritage coupled with humble beginnings, due to the vision and drive of one man – Sir Frank Williams.
Sir Frank Williams is perhaps one of the most influential team principals in Formula One history. His tenacious nature and sheer love for motorsport enabled Williams F1 to take the fight to the likes of Ferrari and McLaren (considered giants of the sport at the time).
However, before he was winning races and world championships in Formula One with Williams F1, Sir Frank Williams had the previous experience of running not one but two teams. Although largely unsuccessful, they proved to be a stepping stone for success.
Sir Frank Williams showed the world he has no intention of slowing down even after completing 5 decades in the sport. His hot lap with reigning F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton is worth checking out.
A keen motorsports enthusiast since adolescence, Williams made the decision to switch from selling groceries to owning a racing team. It ultimately proved to be the right call. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing- financial troubles and personal tragedies tried to bring him down. However, he remained a resilient fighter and the team continues to race.
In 1966, Williams founded Frank Williams Racing Cars – a small stable that operated in the lower formulas. The 1969 season saw the team making its f1 debut with a Brabham chassis-helmed by Williams’ good friend Piers Courage and British driver Richard Attwood. The debut season was satisfactory with Courage picking up two second-place finishes in Monaco and the United States.
The 1970 championship season came with a fresh set of challenges. A chassis change rendered the car uncompetitive and a freak accident resulted in Courage’s demise – leaving Williams heartbroken. A string of spirited performances in a fairly mediocre car ensured Williams would hang on in F1. Financial troubles were only beginning to pile up.
Despite the odd points finish, cash strapped Frank Williams Racing cars were given a much-needed lifeline in 1976. Canadian oil magnate Walter Wolf purchased a majority share and the team was now rebranded Wolf-Williams racing. Sir Frank Williams was relegated to the post of team manager. A restructure at the end of the season saw him lose the role. Williams would eventually leave the team, but this wasn’t the last we would see of him
Perseverance and a will to succeed saw Sir Frank Williams make a comeback to the sport in 1977 with legendary car designer Sir Patrick head- whose brainchild culminated with the birth of Williams Grand Prix engineering. The rest is history.
Setting base in a carpet factory, Williams made a positive start to their Formula 1 campaign with a single driver in Patrick Neve. 1979 saw the team picking up their first victory with Swiss ace Clay Regazzoni. In the following season, Williams would pick up the first of seven drivers’ titles and a first constructors’ championship. Williams Grand Prix Engineering became a force to be reckoned with.
Fast forward to today and Williams has picked up 114 victories, 7 drivers’ world championships, and 9 constructors’ championships catapulting them into the record books. Racing greats like Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, and Nelson Piquet have graced the wheel over the years. Their last victory to date remains the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix which saw Pastor Maldonado seeing the chequered flag in what remains one of racing’s most unforgettable moments.
Today, the team operates as Rokit Williams Racing under the guidance of Claire Williams. 2020 will see George Russell partnering newly signed Formula 2 driver Nicholas Latifi. The duo has a laborious task on their hands ensuring the team achieves glory once again.