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ROKiT Williams Racing
Williams Grand Prix Engineering, currently known as ROKiT Williams Racing, is a Formula 1 team currently competing. The team was formerly the most successful team of all time, until Ferrari surpassed them in 2000. Along with Ferrari and McLaren, Williams are the only team to have recorded 100 Grand Prix wins.
Sir Frank Williams established the team in 1977. Since then, Williams have won seven drivers’ championships and nine constructors’ championships between 1980 and 1997. Legendary drivers like Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Keke Rosberg, Nigel Mansell, Alan Jones, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve have all driven for the team. On that list, Senna is the only one not to win a championship with Williams.
|Team Leader||Claire Williams|
|Technical Leader||Paddy Lowe|
The first years and first victories
After previously running an F1 team unsuccessfully, Sir Frank Williams established ‘Williams Grand Prix Engineering’ in 1977 along with the young engineer Patrick Head.
Despite running a single car that didn’t score a point in 1977, Williams recruited Alan Jones to drive for the team for the following season.
1979 proved to be the breakthrough year for the team, with Jones and new teammate Clay Regazzoni both winning races. Regazzoni won the team’s first-ever race, and Jones won three races on the bounce afterwards. It set the team up for tremendous success in the following years.
Jones won the championship in 1980 by winning five races, and his new teammate Carlos Reutemann added another win to seal the constructors’ championship as well.
Even though Jones and Reutemann’s relationship broke down in 1981, Williams F1 did win the constructors’ championship. However, Jones decided to retire from the sport.
Keke Rosberg, who replaced Jones in 1982, won the title that year despite only winning a single race.
Honda success and Renault dominance
Nigel Mansell joined Williams in 1985 to partner Rosberg, with the latter being replaced by Nelson Piquet a year later. The duo combined for nine victories in 1986 and won the constructors’ championship, but Mansell lost out on his first title in the final round of the season when his tyre blew up.
Williams defended their title in 1987 and Piquet won the drivers’ championship as well, their last title for five years.
On a personal level, Frank Williams suffered a major incident in March 1986. He was left paralysed after a heavy car crash and was sidelined for over a year, and has been wheelchair-bound ever since.
With new engine partners Renault, Williams had their golden years in the 90’s. Nigel Mansell, who had returned to the team after two seasons at Ferrari, and Riccardo Patrese dominated 1992. Mansell won nine races to claim his title, and Patrese chipped in to secure another constructors’ championship.
The year after, however, both drivers left. Alain Prost joined the team to replace Patrese. Prost vetoed his rival Ayrton Senna to come to Williams, and the team decided to promote test driver Damon Hill.
1993 is perhaps Williams’ most famous season. The FW15C utterly dominated F1 with its famous ‘active suspension’, technology which put their car miles ahead of competitors. Prost cruised to the title and Hill helped to retain the constructors’ championship as well.
The season after, however, that same technology was banned, erasing Williams’ advantage and making the car extremely difficult to drive. This turned out to be fatal for new driver Ayrton Senna, who replaced the retired Prost, as he crashed and eventually died at Imola during the San Marino Grand Prix. Ever since, every Williams F1 livery has carried an ‘S’ in his memory.
Williams finished that year winning the constructors’ title again, while Hill claimed his first and only title two years later in 1996 in another double whammy for Williams. The year after, when Hill left, Jacques Villeneuve won the title again in what proved to be the last title to date for Williams, along with the ninth and last constructors’ championship.
The 21st century - wins and slow decline
After some disappointing years in the late 90’s, Williams were back to their competitive ways in 2001, along with title sponsor BMW. Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher, their line-up from 2001 onwards, won races but kept falling short to Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, who won five double titles in a row between 2000 and 2004. 2003 was the year for Williams to break the streak, but a host of errors cost them the title, eventually having to settle for second place.
Montoya won Williams’ last race in 2004 until 2012. BMW started their own team and it left Williams bouncing around for new engines, trying Cosworth twice and Toyota without success.
With a Renault engine, Williams’ last win to date came in Span 2012, when Pastor Maldonado shocked the grid by taking his maiden win. It was a fluke win, however, as Williams finished the season in eighth place.
Sir Frank’s daughter Claire was appointed deputy team principal in 2013. From the year afterwards onwards, powered by Mercedes, Williams remained competitive but never won a race, with Valtteri Bottas getting multiple podiums for the side. The last podium of the team happened in 2017, when rookie Lance Stroll finished third at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and became the youngest ever driver to finish on the podium.
At the end of 2018, Stroll left Williams, as did teammate Sergey Sirotkin, and Formula 2 champion George Russell and former Grand Prix winner Robert Kubica were announced to be the new line-up for 2019.
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