After a couple of seasons of being the laughing stock of the field, Williams finally seems to have found its way...
Relegated to the last two places on the grid, the Williams of today is not an accurate reflection of historically one of the most successful F1 teams of all time. With new ownership, the question is whether Williams can realistically be expected to take a step in the right direction in 2021.
|Team Leader||Simon Roberts|
Who will be driving for Williams in Formula 1?
Just as in 2019 and 2020, George Russell will feature for Williams in 2021. The Brit was by far the team’s strongest driver during the 2020 campaign, although he again remains pointless as a Williams driver. He did score points for Mercedes however.
Next to Russell will be the Canadian Nicholas Latifi. The son of billionaire Michael Latifi, the sponsorship money Latifi brings with him is a big reason why he got the seat. In terms of ability, Latifi's CV will not blow anyone away, although he did finish runner-up in last year’s F2 championship.
Three times the charm
Two unsuccessful attempts to get a Formula 1 team off the ground was not enough for Sir Frank Williams to throw in the towel back in the ‘70s. The Brit joined forces with Patrick Head in 1977 and appeared at the start of the Spanish GP with a car which they had essentially bought.
After some poor results, Williams decided to roll up his sleeves to get his own car on the grid. With the FW06, driver Alan Jones won the team’s first points during the South African Grand Prix in 1977 by finishing fourth. From that moment onwards, the team started gaining momentum.
With a Ford V8 in the back of the car, Williams stormed to second place in the constructors’ championship in 1979 as Jones took four victories. One year later, the Australian was crowned world champion and Williams was at the top of the constructors’ championship as well. The constructors' title was won again in 1981, but Nelson Piquet beat Jones to the drivers' title. The Aussie finished third in his last year at Williams.
Despite taking the title with Keke Rosberg (father of 2016 champion Nico Rosberg), 1982 was not a good year for Williams. The results dropped off significantly, with the Ford V8 being the culprit of this dip. Williams switched to Honda power units (turbocharged V6 engines) and began an upward trajectory again in 1985, clinching the constructors’ title in 196 and 1987. Nelson Piquet won the championship just like in '81, but this time in the service of Williams.
Honda brought some success, but the Japanese manufacturer separated from Williams after 1987. For one year, the British team competed with a V8 (without turbo) before getting a Renault engine. Races were won again and in 1992, a dominant era started for Williams, mainly thanks to their (in)famous active suspension. Nigel Mansell won the title, and Alain Prost won it again for Williams the following year (retiring straight after).
Williams also reeled in three constructors' titles on the bounce with 1995 as the only exception: Michael Schumacher and Benetton snatched it away that time. In 1996 and 1997, Williams again that came out on top again, while the drivers’ championships were also won by Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve. The aftertaste of Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash in 1994 had somewhat been washed away by Williams’ success, although the driver will live on in the team’s heart forever.
The fall of a giant
If the mind behind the car, in this case Adrian Newey, leaves the team, that spells trouble. Combine that with the end of an engine partnership and that spells disaster. Williams suffered both setbacks in 1998 (Newey switched to rivals McLaren and produced title-winning cars) and has to make do with subpar engines for a few years.
In 2000, the power unit situation improves again because of a partnership with BMW. With Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher behind the wheel, the results started to slowly improve in 2001. The FW32 was extremely unreliable but could occasionally produce wins because of the BMW engine’s speed.
In 2004, the relationship between BMW and Williams started breaking down to a point of no return, with both parties claiming the other brings too little to the table. Williams ripped their contract with BMW, which ran until 2009, and switched to Cosworth engines in 2006. Nico Rosberg replaced fellow countryman Nick Heidfeld spot and Mark Webber stayed with Williams for another year. Another year of struggle was ahead, leading to the power source in the back of the Williams getting replaced after just one year.
Not until Williams got Mercedes engines in 2014 (the start of the turbo-hybrid era) did the results improve again. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were on the podium from time to time (Pastor Maldonado’s win in 2012 had been the only one in five years) and the team finished third in the championship in both 2014 and 2015. It didn’t last long, however, asd the FW38 in 2016 ‘only’ got P5.
The Mercedes-bound Bottas was replaced by Lance Stroll the next year and although the same P5 was achieved in the championship, Williams did it with just 83 points. The FW40 was hardly an improvement at all, making the 2018 season the most painful year ever for Williams. Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll only combined for seven points and for the first time in the team’s history, it was dead-last in the championship.
Both Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll disappeared from Williams, with the former leaving Formula 1 entirely. Robert Kubica and George Russell took their places. A Mercedes-junior, Russell got his feet wet in F1 at Williams before potentially making the step to the factory team, while Kubica returned heroically after eight years of absence following his horror-crash in 2011.
Williams still managed to do even worse in 2019 as Kubica and Russell only managed to score one point between them, and the future doesn’t look rosy for the team as of now. Williams failed to score a single point in the 2020 season.
Williams take over
On the 21st August 2020, Williams were acquired by Dorilton Capital.
The amount involved in the acquisition is not yet known. It had been known for some time that the British race team were looking for investors or candidates who wanted to take over the entire team.
At the end of May, Williams began a Strategic Review. The Grove-based team felt forced to do so because of the disappointing results in Formula 1 over recent years and the financial setbacks. The process was successfully completed with the acquisition by Dorilton Capital. A few weeks later, the Williams family decided to step away from the sport altogether. Though the new owners were keen to keep the Williams name in the team.
Who supplies Williams with an engine?
Williams uses the Mercedes engine, but famously develop most of the other parts themselves. The British constructor has the possibility to buy more parts from Mercedes but opts not to. This approach hasn’t seemed to work very well in recent years. However, this plan changes in 2022 as they look to buy more parts from Mercedes.
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