Risk Takers, tenacious, & unrelenting! Constantly living at the edge of oblivion, yet, always emerge victorious and stronger. That is the Williams F1 Team and they are what define Formula 1.
Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited, better known as Williams is a Grove, Oxfordshire based Formula 1 team in England. The organization was founded in 1977 by an aspiring team owner and former racer/mechanic Frank Williams, along with a brilliant engineer, Patrick Head. Prior to their entry in F1, Sir Frank had attempted his hand at competing in the sport for 6 years with various partners, but underwent much hardship. However, he always returned willing to risk it all. Williams is now one of the most advanced and longest running teams in the sport, but in-order to understand Williams today, you must understand their founders, and the teams early years.
Frank and Patrick entered F1 in 1977 without a car, as Williams-Ford. So they purchased and raced a customer car from March Engineering (without much accolade). A year later, in 1978, they entered their first factory built vehicle, the FW06, and began racing as a Constructor. They finished 9th in the Constructors Championship that year with only 11 points. The beginning of the 1979 season didn’t look very promising as the team was late to enter its new car, the FW07. So, for the first five events, they were forced to race with the previous years vehicle. Finally, at the 6th race in ‘79, during the Belgian Grand Prix, the FW07 made its debut appearance. Unfortunately, both cars retired as drivers Alan Jones & Clay Regazzoni had electrical issues and a collision respectively. However, the next race in Monaco brought redemption as Regazzoni placed 2nd. Than the following race in France, Williams placed 4th & 6th. The FW07 was now a formidable threat, and Frank Williams and Patrick Head were officially on the map as true contenders. With 7 races left in the season, Williams won 5! They ended the year having taken 2nd place in both the Drivers and Constructors Championships, only losing out to legendary Ferrari. A fairytale result considering the odds against such a young team and the FW07s late entry, but such is Williams, always the David vs. the Goliaths!
The next year, in 1980, Sir Patrick Head iterated on the FW07 by producing the FW07B. He demonstrated that his teams understanding of the new trend in Ground Effects Engineering was 2nd to none. The FW07B took Williams into a whole new world. The vehicle was so efficient with downforce from its ground effects, that they were able to remove the front wing completely. They went on to win both Drivers and Constructors titles that season.
Fast forward to today and Williams holds rank in a very elite class of F1. They are the third most successful team in Formula 1 history. They are one of three teams to have won over 100 races, only being surpassed by McLaren & Ferrari. They are responsible for having produced some of the most iconic and legendary cars in the sport. They are one of the only teams in history to design a six wheeled race car. They were the only team in history to develop a car dubbed, “The Walrus” (2004 FW26 - not necessarily their finest moment, but the fans loved it :D ), and they are one of the only teams to have developed a vehicle with active suspension, the FW14B. In fact, to this day the FW14B is regarded by many as being the most advanced race car in F1 history. It was a vehicle engineered with technology that could adapt itself, in “real time”, to each race circuit, track surface, and changing conditions (a product well ahead of its time). It was so advanced and dominant that “it” was banned! “No other team principal has entered more cars into Formula 1 than Sir Frank. (source: https://www.williamsf1.com)”
Although their roles in the organization have shifted, Frank Williams and Patrick Head are still part of the outfit today. They are historical figures in F1. They have grown, failed, succeeded, toiled, prospered, and suffered together. Yet, with all this flux they have always committed themselves to the sport. They are men that built cars with their own hands, sweat, and blood. They went “all in” and risked everything, over and over again, for the love and passion of their sport. When Formula 1 evolved, not only did they evolve with it, but also set new standards in vehicle construction. They advanced their factory with robotics to replace old processes and craft. They progressed their organization further by including advanced materials engineering centers, wind tunnels, computer vision technologies, and much more. There aren’t many people in the world that can say they have seen the entire evolution of an industry, let alone say they were a part of it, able to keep up, and even define or set its trends. This puts Frank and Patrick in an elite club!
The sport needs more people like Frank Williams and Patrick Head. However, the unfortunate truth is the world no longer seems to produce people like them. They are fierce and passionate about racing. They are characters that can stomach the grit and aren’t afraid to bloody their knuckles. The drivers they have brought to us over the years have the same nature. Drivers that are absolute in their resolve to win in F1 (e.g. Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Alan Jones). Always putting it all on the line, not caring what tomorrow will bring!
Today, the team is led by Team Principal Claire Williams, daughter of Sir Frank. In recent times, Williams F1 has been subjected to immense adversity and Claire has had to make very tough decisions. Claire carries much of her fathers determination and has been critical in carrying the team forward the past several years. As we watch F1 now, we witness history in the making. These days are the beginning of her story, her trials and tribulations. Now is the time that she is being tested and broken. We will see if she can rise, and lift her team, like her father before her. I hope she proves that the world still produces people forged of Iron! She is a beacon of hope and symbol of the future for Williams fans.
The Williams story is one of low-lows and high-highs. They are a rare jewel, not only in Formula 1, but in this World. A group which has taken immense risk for the sport and the sport is better for it. As the last few years have been some of the hardest and least successful for the team, it is difficult for some of today’s young fans to understand what this organization has accomplished for our sport. I say to these fans, or those of you that are new to F1, it is important to understand that Williams, like Ferrari, only exist to compete in Formula 1, and like Ferrari, are truly part of Formula 1’s DNA.
They are risk takers, they are gladiators, and they are what this sport needs more of.
This, is Williams!