W illiams F1 celebrated the very first success in team history in 1979 at the home game at Silverstone. Clay Ragazzoni drove the FW07 back then. The 100th victory 18 years later came on the former military airfield in England. Jacques Villeneuve provided the much-acclaimed anniversary with the FW19.
Williams F1 experienced the most successful years in the eighties and at the beginning of the nineties: Formula 1 legends such as Keke Rosberg, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet and, last but not least, Ayrton Senna ensured that the constructors' trophy could be brought to the headquarters in Grove nine times. Seven drivers' championships also fell within this period.
In addition to the outstanding drivers, designer Adrian Newey and the stiff Renault V10 engine had the main part in the success of Williams F1 at the beginning of the 90s. In this combination, however, the team also had to experience one of the blackest hours in team history in 1994: Ayrton Senna had a fatal accident at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola.
In 1997, the last two championships went to Williams F1. Since then, the team has been fighting to keep up. The great competition of the manufacturer teams made the successes less frequent. In 2009, thanks to the double diffuser, it was possible to race for podium places at the beginning of the season. Thanks to constant performance, Nico Rosberg achieved a good seventh place in the drivers' championship.
At the end of the year, Williams F1 announced that the 2010 cars will no longer be equipped with Toyota engines but with Cosworth units. The staff also changed: Nico Hülkenberg and Rubens Barrichello often had to be content with midfield positions. The big highlight of the year came in Brazil when Hülkenberg took the 126th pole position for Williams F1.
Nevertheless, there was no future for Nico Hülkenberg at Williams. Immediately after the season he was kicked out and replaced by Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan came with a large sponsor's dowry. The financially troubled racing team could no longer afford to forego this income. In terms of sport, 2011 was correspondingly disappointing. Only the three newcomers could be left behind in the team classification. For veteran Barrichello there were a measly four points, Maldonado only contributed one point to the team account.
With Renault to old successes
With the change to Renault engines and a new technical team cameSuccess back for a short time in 2012. The FW34 already cut a good figure in the winter tests. At the fifth race of the season in Barcelona, Maldonado experienced the perfect weekend. He won sensationally in front of local hero Fernando Alonso. But the shock came just a few minutes after the team photo. A fire broke out in the Williams garage, which could be extinguished with the combined efforts of all teams. The property damage was immense, however.
After the success in Spain, there wasn't much to celebrate. Maldonado and his new team-mate Bruno Senna ensured, with many unnecessary mistakes and failures, for a point diet and high repair bills. In the end, Williams only finished eighth in the team classification.
For 2013, Valtteri Bottas moved up from the reserve driver to the regular cockpit. But even the Finnish youngster couldn't change the fact that the engineers had put a car on its wheels that was not competitive. In the end, there were only 5 meager points on the team account. Only Marussia and Caterham were even worse.
A flash in the pan thanks to Mercedes
To start the turnaround, Pat Symonds was bought as the new chief technology officer. Before the 2014 season, they switched from Renault engines to Mercedes. There was also something new in terms of driver staff. Frustrated Pastor Maldonado left the team for Lotus. A replacement was quickly found. Felipe Massa comes from Ferrari and has become Valtteri Bottas' new team-mate. Another innovation concerned the main sponsor: Martini transformed the white car with its distinctive stripes into a beauty.
The FW34 was not only beautiful but also fast. Thanks to the Mercedes engine and efficient aerodynamics, Bottas and Massa were usually at the forefront when it came to top speed. With 9 podium places and 3rd place in the team standings behind Mercedes and Red Bull, Williams became the newcomer of the season. At the race in Austria, Massa even achieved the only non-Mercedes pole position of the year. The racing team had successfully overcome its crisis.
The upward trend could not quite continue in 2015. With 4 podium places, the trophy yield from the previous year was missed. Ferrari clearly passed Williams. Mercedes drove completely out of range. At least Bottas and Massa were able to leave the Red Bull behind. So there was place 3 again in the team classification.
Williams crash to the end of the field
In 2016 and 2017 the downward trend continued. Williams even finished fifth in the constructors' championship behind Force India. The team had to cope with a shrinking budget. In order to maintain the financing, Valtteri Bottas was sold to Mercedes after the 2016 season, then Felipe Massa was also retired after 2017.
In the 2018 season, Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin were two paydrivers for Williams . It came as it had to: the descentwent on to the end of the field. Even the technical director Paddy Lowe, who was hired by Mercedes, could not save anything. Seven points meant the last place in the team ranking. After the season, Lance Stroll fled to Force India with his father's millions. Sirotkin was sorted out. Comebacker Robert Kubica and Mercedes junior George Russell were signed up for the turnaround in 2019.