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WilliamsF1 History 89-96 Age of Honda & Renault

By Andrew Hooper
May 20 2002

Williams Team History 1989-96
For 1989 Williams was able to secure the use of Renault engines. Patrick Head, the team's Technical Director, designed the FW13 chassis specifically to house the new Renault engine and Belgian driver, Thierry Boutsen, joined the team in 1989, replacing Nigel Mansell and partnering Riccardo Patrese. This proved a popular and successful choice, and at a very wet Canadian Grand Prix he scored his very first Grand Prix win and also the first for the new Williams Renault partnership.

Boutsen also went on to notch up his second victory at the final race of the year in Adelaide, again in atrocious weather conditions. It was also a great year for Patrese. He appeared on the rostrum six times, led several races, finished third in the Drivers' World Championship and helped the team to runner-up spot in the Constructors' World Championship.

Nigel Mansell
Nineteen-ninety got off to a good start with Boutsen third in his Williams-Renault FW13B in Phoenix and then, at the third race of the year, the San Marino Grand Prix, there was a fairytale story with Patrese winning his third Grand Prix; his previous victory had been seven years earlier. Boutsen's turn came in Hungary where he claimed his first ever pole position and went on to win an impressive green light to chequered flag victory. These two wins and several other podium placing's meant at the end of the season the team finished fourth in the Constructors' World Championship.

Halfway through the 1990 season Mansell, who subsequently won 28 Grands Prix for Williams, announced his retirement after a disappointing British Grand Prix whilst driving for Ferrari. The Williams team persuaded him to change his mind and he re-signed for the team for whom he had won more Grands Prix than any other driver and this was announced on the 1st October.

The 1991 Williams team proved a winning combination, with Mansell scoring five and Patrese two victories. The team proved the only real competition to McLaren and were runners-up to them in both the Constructors' and Drivers' World Championships, with Mansell and Patrese second and third respectively in the latter.

The tide turned in 1992. At the first race in South Africa Mansell and Patrese finished first and second with the Williams-Renault FW14B fitted with active suspension.

Mansell continued on to became the first driver to win the opening five races of a season. His record breaking did not stop there and he became the first driver to win nine races in one season and to be on pole 14 times. His win at the British Grand Prix was his 28th, beating Jackie Stewart's record for the British driver with the most Grand Prix victories.

When Mansell came second in Hungary he clinched the Drivers' World Championship, the first British driver to do so since James Hunt in 1976. In Belgium Williams and Renault took the Constructors' title, the first ever for Renault, and to end the winning year Patrese finished runner-up to Mansell for the Drivers' crown. The car was fitted with the Renault RS3C engine initially, but in the latter part of the year the RS4 was used.

For 1993 it was all change in the driver line-up, with French three-times World Champion, Alain Prost, and Williams test driver, Damon Hill, taking over from Mansell and Patrese. They carried on where Mansell and Patrese left off, retaining the Constructors' title, while Prost clinched his fourth drivers' title and Hill won his first Grand Prix in Hungary.

But soon after clinching the title Prost decided to finish his career as a driver allowing three-times World Champion, Ayrton Senna, to join the Williams team. So the 1994 championship battle started with the new look Rothmans Williams Renault team and drivers, Ayrton Senna and Damon Hill, supported by test driver, David Coulthard.

Damon Hill
At the third Grand Prix of the year at Imola in Italy Ayrton Senna was killed while leading the race when his car left the circuit at the notorious Tamburello corner and crashed into a concrete wall. The world of motor racing was stunned and the close-knit Williams team was shattered by the tragic death of the driver who many people regarded as simply the best. The fight back of the Williams team typified the bravery and leadership of Frank. As a mark of respect the team only ran one car for Hill in Monaco and then four weeks after that tragic day in Imola, Hill won the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona and promptly dedicated his victory to both Ayrton and the team.

For this race Hill was partnered by David Coulthard, who drove car No. 2 for eight of the remaining races. For the other four races in France, Spain, Japan and Australia Nigel Mansell came back from the USA, where he was racing in the Indy Car series. After the win in Barcelona, Hill scored another five victories but lost the championship by a single point to Michael Schumacher following a controversial collision at the last race in Adelaide, which was eventually won by Mansell. In such a tragic year it was testimony to the strength of the team that they retained the Constructors' World Championship, to close a season that will never be forgotten.

For 1995 it was Hill and Coulthard who drove for the team in the Williams Renault FW17 and between them notched up five victories, with the young Scot taking his first Grand Prix win in Portugal. Hill was the only driver to challenge Schumacher for the drivers' title, but had to accept defeat when the German won the title for the second year at the Pacific Grand Prix in Aida.

Alain Prost
In 1996 the team said goodbye to Damon who had been with them as a test and racing driver for six years, Elf who had been supplying fuel and oil for eight years, and in August Renault announced that 1997 would be its last season in Formula One.
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