Frank Williams Racing Cars was set up in 1966 and their first Formula 1 season was in 1969. With little success at first, they formed Williams Grand Prix Engineering. This same team has now become one of the most successful of all time. Winning 9 constructor’s championships and 114 races, they have undoubtedly had much success. Many of the famous drivers have raced, and won, with Williams: Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Jenson Button, Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna and Jacques Villeneuve. Excluding Senna and Button, all of these drivers have won a Drivers’ title with the team.
Williams Grand Prix Engineering was founded in 1977 by Frank Williams and Patrick Head. Their first full season in Formula 1 in 1978, with Alan Jones the only driver, saw them finish on the podium once. They finished 9th overall. The following year they signed Clay Regazzoni to race alongside Alan Jones. That same year they won their first race, the British GP, and followed this up with a further 4 wins. Having gained 75 points, they finished in 2nd overall. 1980 was even more successful than the previous year. 6 wins and 18 podiums gave them both titles easily.
Continuing this dominance they win 4 races and the constructors’ title in 1981 however Carlos Reutemann misses out on the Drivers’ Championship by one point. Just two wins from 1982-1984 seasons gives them a best of 4th in the championship. With Mansell signed alongside Keke Rosberg in 1985, Williams had more success. 4 wins gave them 3rd overall. In 1986, Frank Williams was seriously injured in a road crash and was paralysed. Despite this, the team won 9 races in the season to take the title and Mansell nearly claimed the drivers’ title. They won the title again in 1987 and this time they won the driver’s title with Piquet, also.
1988 was a season dominated by McLaren, with Ferrari the only other Grand Prix winner that season; Williams failed to reach the top 5 in the standings. Claiming only 20 points, the team fell to 7th overall. After securing an engine deal with Renault in 1989, the team signed Boutsen and Patrese, Williams won two races to finish second in the championship. They finished in 4th overall in 1990, scoring 20 points less than the previous year. Mansell replaced Boutsen in 1991. Reliability was a problem in the first part of the season but they managed to claim 7 victories throughout the season. This meant they ended in 2nd overall.
After winning the first 5 races of 1992, Mansell was set up for a title win. With four more wins in the season, Mansell took the title setting the record for the most victories in a single season. Williams also took the title. With a dominant car in 1993, much more competitive than the rest of the field, Williams signed Prost to race along with Damon Hill. This allowed Prost to take his 4th title.
The following season, 1994, saw Williams’ first fatality. Signing Senna to replace Prost, they were set to win another title. However, the first two races were won by Benetton driver, Michael Schumacher. The third race was the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola. On the first corner of the sixth lap, Senna was involved in a fatal crash. This accident had a severe effect on the team, who went on to win the title that year.
In 1996 Damon Hill won the drivers’ championship for Williams, who took their 8th constructors’ title. Villeneuve took the title for the team the following season. 1999 saw them drop to 5th overall without a single victory. After failing to win, yet again, in 2000; Williams improved in 2001 and won four races. However, in an era dominated by Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, they failed to challenge for the title. With Montoya and Ralf Schumacher signed for 2002, the team won just one race and finished 2nd overall. 2003 was a good season for Williams and they won four races, however they missed out on the constructors’ title in the final round.
In 2004 Ralf Schumacher missed six races after fracturing his spine in an Indy car crash. Marc Gene and then Antonio Pizzonia replace him. The team win one race and finish 4th in the standings. 2006 was a disappointing season and, after 20 DNFs, they finished 8th in the championship. Williams improved in 2007 and only got 7 DNFs, they failed to win a race but finished in a much improved 4th place. An impressive start to the season in 2008, with Rosberg on the podium in Australia, was unfortunately followed by less success. By the end of 2008 they had dropped from 4th to 8th in the standings.
Although the FW31 was reliable and consistently finished, the car didn’t have the pace to keep up with the front-runners. With a total of 34.5 points by the end of the season, they finished 7th. Four unsuccessful seasons followed, 2011 was the worst season in Williams’ history as they struggled with pace, reliability and consistency. The highlight was a win from Maldonado in 2012, however they slip back to 8th due to multiple incidents and uncompetitive qualifying pace.
2014 was a break-through for the team. Benefitting from the dominant Mercedes engine and two very quick drivers (Massa and Bottas), Williams are able to make massive progress. With 8 podiums, they manage to finish in 3rd overall, despite failing to win a race in the Mercedes-dominant season.
Williams are retained their driver line-up for the 2015 season and will do for 2016.