Williams stays one of many nice Method 1 names and, regardless of its latest troubles, continues to be the fourth most profitable workforce when it comes to world championship race wins. Solely in the direction of the top of 2020 did the Mercedes steamroller surpass Williams’s complete of 114 victories.
Williams continues to be third (two forward of Mercedes) on the pole positions listing, whereas its document of 9 constructors’ titles (second solely to Ferrari) and 7 drivers’ crowns (fourth) underlines its legendary standing.
And but the Grove-based workforce has not gained a title since 1997 and all however 11 of its 114 wins got here in its first twenty years. In different phrases, it has now spent as a lot of its life not on the sharp finish because it has on the entrance, an unthinkable scenario for individuals who witnessed its intervals of domination within the Eighties and Nineteen Nineties.
Final 12 months we assessed the peaks and troughs of Ferrari’s 70 years in F1. Now, as Williams embarks on a brand new period with recent funding and the Williams household now not on the helm, it looks like a superb time to do likewise for one among motorsport’s hottest outfits.
As soon as once more, we now have used supertimes for our evaluation. Supertimes are primarily based on the quickest single lap by every automobile at every race weekend, expressed as a share of the quickest single lap total (100.000%) and averaged over the season.
As we now have identified earlier than, as a result of they’re primarily based on the perfect lap time of a weekend (which normally means qualifying), supertimes do not give a whole image of a automobile’s competitiveness, when it comes to race tempo or reliability. However the method does give a superb indication of how vehicles stack up in opposition to each other season-by-season.
For this piece we now have calculated how far off Williams has been from the quickest workforce in F1 every season or, in years when the workforce was quickest, how far forward it was.
Selecting the place to begin with Williams is a tad difficult. Frank Williams first ran a automobile in F1 in 1969, and even after the formation of Williams Grand Prix Engineering in 1977 the workforce ran a buyer March chassis in chosen races (and was woefully off the tempo).
We have determined to begin our evaluation when Williams and co-founder Patrick Head produced their first automobile collectively for 1978. That is when WGPE turned a completely blown F1 constructor, albeit as a one-car workforce.
The FW06 was a neat, smart, pretty typical automobile. Within the arms of Alan Jones, the Saudia Airways-sponsored machine confirmed flashes of tempo and was arguably unlucky to not win a race, although even Head concedes it was not dependable sufficient.
Williams has not gained a title since 1997 and all however 11 of its 114 wins got here in its first twenty years. In different phrases, it has now spent as a lot of its life not on the sharp finish because it has on the entrance
On common the FW06 was solely eighth quickest throughout the season, 1.9% from ground-effects pioneer Lotus. In 2020 phrases that might put it between AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo, about 0.9% faster than the FW43 was.
However there can be a giant step for 1979. Lotus designer Colin Chapman had confirmed the best way with the 79 however instantly tried to make the subsequent massive leap as an alternative of perfecting ground-effect. Whereas Lotus misplaced its approach, Head got here up with the FW07, basically a greater (ie stiffer) model.
It wasn’t prepared for the beginning of the 12 months and it took some time for the workforce to unlock the automobile’s potential, so Williams’s total supertime place for the 12 months was third, 0.277% down. However that masks the FW07’s actual efficiency. With the FW06’s races factored out by eradicating the primary 4 rounds, Williams jumps to the highest of the chart, 0.538% away from second-placed Ferrari.
Clay Regazzoni famously scored the workforce’s first world championship GP win at Silverstone and Jones added 4 extra victories, but it surely was not sufficient to forestall the dependable and constant Ferrari 312T4 scooping the constructors’ title and 1-2 within the drivers’ desk with Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve.
Ferrari was left all at sea as ground-effects and downforce ranges ramped up in 1980, and the highest 4 (when it comes to uncooked tempo) of Williams, Ligier, Renault and Brabham had been coated by simply 0.271%. However it was constant Williams on prime, beating Ligier by 120 factors to 66 for its first constructors’ laurels, whereas Jones scored 5 wins and the drivers’ title.
Jones was arguably even higher in 1981 however luck was not with him. Renault was the quickest of all – 0.102% forward of Williams – however its revolutionary turbocharged machines had been nonetheless not dependable sufficient.
That left Brabham, simply 0.222% behind Williams, as the principle challenger. However whereas Jones and Carlos Reutemann cut up the Williams factors (most controversially on the moist Brazilian GP, when Reutemann ignored workforce orders to win), Nelson Piquet was the driver at Brabham.
Reutemann’s resolve crumbled and fifth within the season finale was sufficient for Piquet to clinch the drivers’ championship, however Williams was nonetheless a cushty champion within the desk that mattered to Frank Williams – the constructors’.
The turbo revolution was in full swing by 1982, with Renault, Ferrari after which Brabham working aggressive vehicles. They instantly jumped to the highest three on uncooked velocity, with Williams an enormous 1.727% behind pacesetter Renault.
That is additional away than AlphaTauri was from Mercedes final 12 months, however there are two main caveats. The primary is that the turbo period creates some deceptive uncooked tempo knowledge – turbo enhance could possibly be turned up in qualifying, producing energy ranges that weren’t potential in races. The Cosworth DFV-engined runners, which included Williams, had been invariably nearer in races, helped by being kinder to their tyres.
The second is that Brabham and Renault had been nonetheless too unreliable. Ferrari was robust sufficient to win the constructors’ contest, however the horrible crashes for Villeneuve and Didier Pironi meant that it had no driver battling for the crown come the top of the season, as new Williams recruit Keke Rosberg got here by to turn into a shock champion.
Autosport 70: The “cheapest” world champion opens up
Regardless of the turbo failures in 1982, it was clear that it was the best way to go to stay aggressive. Flat bottoms arrived for 1983 to curb downforce and turbos set the tempo. Williams, nonetheless working the DFV, slipped to eighth quickest, 3.374% away from Ferrari, which once more took the constructors’ championship.
Rosberg put in one among his best drives to win the Monaco GP in tricky conditions, however languished in fifth within the factors. And Williams was fourth, with half the rating of Brabham-BMW in third.
The qualifying prowess of Ayrton Senna and Lotus-Renault saved Williams in second on the supertimes however in actuality the Williams-Honda FW11 was the perfect race automobile of 1986
Honda energy had arrived earlier than the top of the season and the turbocharged FW09 was the Williams weapon of selection for 1984. It was unwieldy and Honda was enjoying catch-up with the engine (sound acquainted?), that means the ultimate outcomes (eighth for Rosberg, sixth for Williams) were even worse.
However it had moved Williams nearer to the tempo, 1.655% behind in sixth, and issues had been entering into the precise path. That continued in 1985, the highly effective FW10 being second quickest total (and forward of title-winning McLaren) and profitable the final three GPs.
The qualifying prowess of Ayrton Senna and Lotus-Renault saved Williams in second on the supertimes however in actuality the Williams-Honda FW11 was the perfect race automobile of 1986. It gained 9 of the 16 races and Williams gained the constructors’ championship by miles, however the rivalry between Nigel Mansell and Piquet allowed an impressed Alain Prost to steal the drivers’ laurels with McLaren.
It was nonetheless a outstanding season given the pre-season highway accident that left Frank Williams in a wheelchair, Mansell delivering an emotional victory within the British Grand Prix because the workforce boss returned to the paddock.
Because the McLaren-TAG (aka McLaren-Porsche) partnership headed in the direction of its conclusion, Senna and Lotus centered on maximising energetic suspension for races and Ferrari began a restoration, Williams was dominant in 1987.
The FW11B’s uncooked tempo benefit was 1.331%, the most important margin on the entrance of F1 for the reason that Nineteen Fifties. Regardless of Piquet’s severe Imola accident compromising his efficiency, the FW11B nonetheless took 9 wins from the primary 14 races.
Mansell normally led the cost however unhealthy luck, most notably in Monaco and Hungary, and a crash in Japanese GP qualifying handed Piquet the title. In Mansell’s absence, Williams was an also-ran within the ultimate two rounds of the 12 months, each gained by Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari, however of larger concern was the lack of Honda engines.
Not for the final time, Williams’s impartial spirit introduced some challenges for 1988. Honda needed to stick with Senna as he moved to McLaren, which meant that Lotus or Williams must lose the Japanese agency’s engines.
Honda requested Williams to interchange Mansell with Satoru Nakajima. Understandably, Williams and Head felt a Piquet-Nakajima line-up can be secondary to Prost-Senna at McLaren, so declined. McLaren went on to dominate 1988 with the long-lasting MP4/4, whereas Williams ran usually aspirated Judd V8s for Mansell and Riccardo Patrese – who changed Lotus-bound Piquet.
Not solely was Williams left behind by turbo customers McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus, it was additionally jumped by fellow usually aspirated runner Benetton. The FW12 wasn’t a horrible automobile – Mansell twice certified second and twice completed there – however reliability was poor and it was actually a holding 12 months earlier than Renault V10 engines arrived.
The primary 12 months of the partnership diminished the hole to the entrance from 2.894% (fifth) to 1.771% (third) in 1989, and yielded two wins in rain-blighted races at Montreal and Adelaide for Thierry Boutsen. The deficit was 1.278% the next 12 months, however Williams couldn’t get into the title battle with McLaren and Ferrari, regardless of claiming its first dry climate wins courtesy of Patrese at Imola and Boutsen in Hungary.
However 1991 was the beginning of Williams’s strongest interval. The FW14 was the primary Williams that aero guru Adrian Newey had a hand in, plus Mansell rejoined after two years at Ferrari to associate Patrese.
Throughout the season Williams was 0.269% behind McLaren, however there have been instances when it had been forward. A mix of unreliability, a superb marketing campaign from Senna, driver errors and a giant push from Honda was sufficient to disclaim Williams each titles, however there was little question it had momentum.
Williams had way back invested in new applied sciences in a bid to finish McLaren’s reign, most notably energetic suspension and traction management. Every thing got here collectively in 1992 and the FW14B obliterated the opposition, delivering Mansell his solely world title. Its 1.492% benefit is the sixth largest in F1 historical past, third in the event you low cost the much less aggressive period of the Nineteen Fifties.
1991 was the beginning of Williams’s strongest interval. The FW14 was the primary Williams that aero guru Adrian Newey had a hand in, plus Mansell rejoined after two years at Ferrari
However in fourth place – even additional forward on the supertimes than the MP4/4 and FW14B – was the subsequent Williams, the 1993 FW15C. Its benefit was an unlimited 1.706%, a margin that coated the highest seven groups in 2020…
A mix of procedural errors (Williams was not often the perfect workforce within the pits in its heyday), extra Senna brilliance and unhealthy luck meant the FW15C, just like the 14B, misplaced six of the 16 races. However a second title double was secured, Mansell’s alternative Prost bowing out at season’s finish.
Senna joined for 1994 and the idea was that the mixture of the Brazilian and the period’s preeminent workforce can be unstoppable. However all of the gizmos, which Williams had constructed its designs round to realize its massive benefit, had been banned.
The FW16 was due to this fact difficult to drive, Michael Schumacher and Benetton had been extra aggressive than anticipated, after which Williams misplaced Senna in the course of the tragic San Marino GP weekend. The workforce rallied brilliantly, with Damon Hill taking over the function of workforce chief, and was really the quickest over the season, by a scant 0.092%.
With the assistance of David Coulthard and Mansell, Williams retained its constructors’ crown however Schumacher, regardless of solely having the ability to rating over 12 of the 16 races, clinched the drivers’ title following the controversial conflict with Hill on the Adelaide finale.
The FW17 had a 0.184% benefit over the sphere in 1995, however that was not sufficient to make up for the strategic excellence of Benetton and Schumacher’s relentlessness within the races. Williams was repeatedly outmanoeuvred within the pits and errors from Hill and team-mate Coulthard added to the troubled season. Williams gained 5 races to Benetton’s 11 and misplaced out in each factors tables.
Schumacher’s transfer to Ferrari because the Italian workforce rebuilt itself (once more) and the under-rated FW18 restored Williams to the entrance in 1996. A rejuvenated Hill marched to the crown with eight wins, whereas rookie team-mate Jacques Villeneuve scored 4 victories as Williams largely made probably the most of its 0.548% benefit.
Its solely defeats had been on account of three very good Schumacher drives and the chaotic Monaco GP, which Hill would have gained by miles had it not been for a uncommon Renault engine failure. The FW18’s strike fee was due to this fact 75%, the perfect Williams season, regardless of the automobile not having the long-lasting standing of the FW14B and FW15C.
The next season was, in hindsight, a turning level for Williams. The FW19 was the final Williams through which Newey had an affect earlier than he left to affix McLaren, annoyed at not having extra say in workforce choices, together with driver choice. It could possibly be argued that since that second, Williams has not been on the chopping fringe of F1 aerodynamic pondering, a key motive for its struggles within the twenty first century.
The lack of Newey, Renault withdrawing as a manufacturing unit engine provider and new guidelines modified the aggressive image in 1998. Villeneuve had narrowly crushed Schumacher to the 1997 title, however Ferrari overtook arch-rival Williams in 1998 and McLaren leapfrogged each. Powered by the Mecachrome-badged Renault, the FW20 fell to 3rd quickest, with its 1.364% deficit to McLaren the workforce’s largest since 1989. Villeneuve and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, a disappointing alternative for Hill, managed simply three podiums between all of them season.
The next season was even worse – 1.559% behind and fifth quickest, with F1 returnee Alex Zanardi failing to attain some extent – however the arrival of BMW energy sparked a mini revival. Williams improved to 1.097% behind in fourth in 2000, then obtained again to second in 2001, 0.378% behind Ferrari with 4 wins scored by Ralf Schumacher and rookie Juan Pablo Montoya.
Williams remained within the prime three for the subsequent three years, however titles remained elusive. That was largely because of the energy of Schumacher and Ferrari. The true deficit to the Italian workforce was really larger than the supertimes recommend.
Ferrari’s Bridgestone tyres tended to not be so robust over one lap because the Michelins utilized by Williams, however had been normally good over longer stints. That helps to clarify why, for instance, Montoya was in a position to take seven poles for Williams in 2002 and but the workforce’s solely win was Ralf Schumacher’s success in Malaysia.
The lack of Newey, Renault withdrawing as a manufacturing unit engine provider and new guidelines modified the aggressive image in 1998
One other key second got here when Williams parted firm with BMW after the connection turned bitter. Their ultimate season collectively in 2005 was additionally their worst – solely sixth quickest and 1.117% off the tempo, though Nick Heidfeld took benefit of a light-weight gas load to take his solely pole place on the Nurburgring.
As F1’s prices continued to rise, being an impartial – a superb phrase to explain Frank and his workforce – proved increasingly more difficult, significantly after the 2008 financial crash.
Williams switched to Cosworth energy for the primary 12 months of the two.4-litre V8 period after which to Toyota for the second. Both approach, the workforce was solely seventh quickest, 1.078% off in 2006, 1.294% in 2007.
Because the F1 discipline closed up, partly due to engine freeze laws, Williams obtained to inside 1.001% of pacesetter Ferrari in 2008 however was nonetheless solely eighth quickest.
The double diffuser – initially used solely by Brawn, Toyota and (now Toyota-powered) Williams – helped the workforce rise to fourth 0.394% off Crimson Bull (comfortably the perfect of the groups to begin the season with out the controversial interpretation of F1’s new aero guidelines). This was F1’s closest season when it comes to uncooked tempo from entrance to again.
Even so, Kazuki Nakajima completed the season point-less, and Nico Rosberg’s tally was solely enough to put seventh within the constructors’ contest.
Thereafter Williams fell again as soon as once more when it comes to tempo (although was sixth within the factors in 2010), not helped by a scarcity of engine consistency. In 2010 it modified from Toyota to Cosworth, then to Renault for 2012.
Thanks partly to the delicate Pirellis that for a time had groups struggling to make their vehicles work persistently, the 2012 FW34 was fairly a aggressive proposition, 0.74% off the tempo in sixth. Many vehicles had ‘their day’ in the course of the unpredictable season and the FW34 sensationally gained the Spanish GP in the hands of Pastor Maldonado.
Had Williams been in a position to name on somebody as established as Rubens Barrichello, who drove for the workforce in 2010-11, relatively than the enigmatic Maldonado and inexperienced Bruno Senna, it might need completed greater than eighth within the 2012 constructors’ desk.
That momentum was not maintained in any case, with Williams slipping to ninth quickest (1.895% off the tempo) and ninth within the factors in 2013, however the turbo-hybrid period proved a lifeline.
In addition to Martini sponsorship, Williams secured Mercedes engines. The powerplant was up to now forward of Ferrari and Renault that Williams vaulted to second quickest, although nonetheless a major 0.881% away from Mercedes.
The FW36 nonetheless didn’t rating extremely within the downforce division however, mixed with Mercedes energy, it was slippery sufficient to show a menace at high-speed venues. Felipe Massa took pole on the Austrian GP – the one non-Mercedes pole of the marketing campaign and – had the workforce been much less conservative and extra used to working on the entrance – would possibly have been in a position to rating a victory.
Because it was, Crimson Bull and Daniel Ricciardo picked up the three wins that Mercedes allowed to let slip by its fingers. That helps to clarify why the Milton Keynes-based squad was in a position to take second within the constructors’ desk, however third was nonetheless Williams’s finest consequence since 2003.
As different engine producers obtained their acts collectively and closed the deficit to Mercedes, so Williams began to slide again to what, within the twenty first century, must be thought of its extra consultant place within the midfield.
Taking up giants equivalent to Mercedes is all the time going to be powerful however, if F1 delivers on its extra stage enjoying discipline promise with the 2022 laws, then the brand new Williams period could possibly be one among shifting again to the entrance
It did handle to carry on to 3rd within the championship in 2015, however fell to fourth quickest. Maybe extra worryingly, the hole to Mercedes virtually doubled, averaging 1.473%.
In 2016, Williams was once more fourth quickest (1.698% behind Mercedes) however this time that solely transformed to fifth within the constructors’ desk because the savvy Drive India workforce of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg outscored Valtteri Bottas and Massa.
The autumn gathered tempo with the broader, extra aerodynamically aggressive vehicles that arrived in 2017. Williams fell to seventh, 2.439% off the tempo, although it did maintain on to fifth within the factors desk, earlier than sliding to final on the supertimes, 3.488% off Mercedes in 2018.
That was additionally the place Williams completed within the constructors’ championship, not helped by having to depend on the inexperienced duo of Lance Stroll – who scored the team’s most recent podium at Baku in 2017 – and Sergey Sirotkin. The fast fall down the desk additionally meant smaller payouts from F1, exacerbating Williams’s monetary points, even when each Stroll Sr’s and Sirotkin’s cash had been welcomed help.
The 2019 FW42 was – all of us hope – the nadir for Williams. Late to begin testing and, as soon as once more, missing in downforce, it was 4.122% off the tempo. That is the furthest away a Williams has ever been throughout a season, with 2018 the second-worst efficiency. The following slowest was the 1983 marketing campaign, which was skewed by the aforementioned turbo qualifying traits – and even the FW08C was in a position to win a race.
There is no doubt that Frank Williams and Head created one among F1’s superteams, however half of Williams’s 4 many years – the latest half – has been spent within the midfield relatively than on the entrance.
If this makes grim studying for Williams followers, there are some causes to be cheerful.
The FW43 diminished the hole to the entrance to 2.787%, the workforce’s seventh-best year-on-year enchancment in its historical past and the second finest this century. That is much more spectacular if you issue within the soar Mercedes made on the entrance of the sphere with the W11.
Heading into 2021 Williams nonetheless has the companies of George Russell, one among F1’s brightest rising stars. And the workforce has labored onerous to optimise different areas, equivalent to pitstops. There may be additionally the additional monetary stability offered by the Dorilton Capital buyout and new CEO Jost Capito has a superb observe document.
Taking up giants equivalent to Mercedes is all the time going to be powerful however, if F1 delivers on its extra stage enjoying discipline promise with the 2022 laws, then the brand new Williams period could possibly be one among shifting again to the entrance. That will be good for F1 – and a becoming tribute to Frank Williams and his household.