January 27, 2022

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Half the Automotive

Key highlights of Williams’ F1 history after Sir Frank Williams dies aged 79

Sir Frank Williams, who has died at the age of 79, will be remembered as a pioneer of Formula One.

Williams Grand Prix Engineering was founded in 1977, with a first F1 victory coming when Clay Regazzoni won the British Grand Prix two years later.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look back at some of the highlights of Williams’ F1 history, which saw them secure nine Constructors’ Championships between 1980 and 1997.

From humble beginnings to top of the world

Frank Williams (left), owner of the F1 World Championship-winning team shakes hands with Frank Andrew, of sponsors Leyland Vehicles

Frank Williams (left) saw Alan Jones (centre) lift the Formula One Drivers’ Championship title in 1980 (PA Archive)

Williams had already tried to establish F1 teams with Frank Williams Racing Cars and Wolf–Williams Racing before the 1977 venture with automotive engineer Sir Patrick Head.

The new team’s first race was at the Spanish Grand Prix, and after beginning to manufacture their own cars, it was Swiss driver Regazzoni who helped deliver a first F1 race victory in the 1979 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

In 1980, Williams went on to claim a maiden Constructors’ Championship title with Alan Jones delivering the World Drivers’ Championship, the first Australian to do so since Jack Brabham in 1966.

Williams defended the Constructors’ Championship title the following season, while Finland’s Keke Rosberg then won the 1982 drivers’ title – despite only being victorious in one Grand Prix.

Nigel Mansell (left) at Brands Hatch with his F1 team boss Frank Williams

Nigel Mansell (left) was a leading driver for Williams (PA Archive)

During March 1986, Williams was involved in a car accident when driving from Paul Ricard to Nice airport, suffering injuries which would see him confined to a wheelchair.

Williams, though, was back guiding the F1 team just nine months later, and brought together Britain’s Nigel Mansell and Brazilian rival Nelson Piquet.

Another Constructors’ Championship title followed as the Honda-powered car saw Piquet finish ahead of Mansell in the 1987 drivers’ standings.

Mansell on track for more F1 glory

British F1 driver Nigel Mansell celebrates on the podium after his win at Silverstone in 1992

Nigel Mansell won the 1992 British Grand Prix at Silverstone on his way to the drivers’ title (David Jones/PA)

With Williams securing an engine supply from Renault, British driver Mansell took the chequered flag in the first five rounds of the 1992 season as he went on to win the drivers’ title and Williams once again secured the constructors’ crown.

In 1993, with Mansell switching to IndyCar, Williams brought in Alain Prost, who went on to take his fourth drivers’ championship as the team retained their constructors’ title again.

Tragedy struck the Williams team in 1994 when Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna, a three-time world champion, died following a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix.

Record breakers

Williams went on to claim the constructors’ championship in 1996 as Britain’s Damon Hill won the drivers’ world title.

In 1997, Canadian Jacques Villeneuve secured the drivers’ title, with the team collecting the constructors’ championship for a ninth time.

The record of nine Constructors’ Championships between 1980 and 1997 stood until surpassed by Ferrari in 2000.

Williams stepped down from the board of the Williams F1 team in 2012 and ceased to have any involvement in the team during September 2020 following its sale to Dorilton Capital.