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WilliamsF1 History 77-88 - Building a winning team

By Andrew Hooper
May 20 2002

Williams Team History 1977-88
Keke Rosberg
For the 1978 season Frank was to sign the Australian Alan Jones, who had won the Austrian Grand Prix the previous year. In 1978 Williams and Jones were able to score an excellent second place at the United States Grand Prix. Williams had moved from being the team that jokes were made about to one that was taken seriously by rivals. In 1979 Head was to design the FW07. This was the teams first ground-effect car, a technology first introduced by Colin Chapman and the Lotus Team. 

With Jones and Clay Regazzoni Williams now had a very competitive team. Regazzoni was to win the teams frist Grand Prix at the British Grand Prix. Jones would also win the German, Austrian, Dutch, and Canadian Grand Prix. Jody Scheckter was to win the 1979 Championship but in 1980 Alan Jones would make it his and the teams World Championship. For the 1981 season Carlos Reutemann was to lose the tile to Nelson Piquet by a narrow margin.

For the 1982 season Williams was to have the services of the talented Keke Rosberg who won the Drivers title that year after winning only one race. Frank was to soon realise that to compete at the top levels of Formula One he would need the support of a major manufacturer, such as Renault or BMW, to be able to compete. Frank was to look towards Honda, who was developing its own turbo-charged V6 engine. The deal between Honda and Williams was finally settle early 1983. For the 1984 season Head was to design the ungainly FW09. 

Keke Rosberg was able to score a victory in the United States Grand Prix at Dallas. In 1985 Head was to design the teams first carbon-fibre chassis, a technology pioneered by the McLaren team, the FW10. British driver Nigel Mansell had joined the team to partner Rosberg. The team was to score four wins with Rosberg, winning in Detroit and Australia, and Mansell winning in European Grand Prix and in South Africa. Frank had taken his team to the upper heights of Formula One.

Nelson Piquet
The team was on a high but in March 1986 Frank Williams was to face the most serious challenge of his life. While returning to airport at Nice Frank was involved in a car accident which was to leave him paralysed. Williams was not to return to the pit lane for almost a year. Despite the lack of Frank's presence the team, in the 1986 season, would win 9 Grand Prixs and the Constructors Championship. Despite the fact that Williams had won the constructors Championship their engine partners were frustrated by the fact that neither Williams driver, Mansell or Piquet, did not win the drivers championship. 

The situation reached the point where the partnership between Honda and Williams was terminated at the end of the 1987 season. This was made even harder to understand when Nelson Piquet was to win the 1987 Drivers Championship. Williams was made to secure the resources to run Judd engines for the 1988 season. This was a move that was to achieve few results. The team did not win a single race this season.

Mansell & Senna
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