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From pioneers to a team in crisis, the downfall of Williams Racing

With the 2019 season now four races in, results have been catastrophic for Williams.

Not only have they been the two slowest cars each weekend, but by some distance too, constantly over a second to the other 18 drivers in qualifying.

With widespread regulations to be put in place for 2021, the season cannot arrive quick enough for the team, but if the car still doesn’t improve then the future of Williams Racing could be severely under threat.

Formula One teams constantly come and go, but for this to potentially happen to an iconic team that is Williams would be a travesty.

What the younger fans may not realise is that this back-of-the-grid car, this team that is constantly uncompetitive, was once a force.

During the 1980s and 1990s, they were the team to beat, with Frank Williams, Adrian Newey and Patrick Head as its leadership, teams looked up to them and their innovative designs that constantly won championships.

Williams Racing were pioneers.

But the 21st century dawned a new era of Formula One and unfortunately for Williams, they lagged behind and have firmly hit rock-bottom in 2019.

How exactly has this catastrophic downfall of a once great giant occurred?

Its creation and the early championship years

Entering its maiden car into the 1977 season, it didn’t take long for Williams to become champions.

With Frank Williams as its owner and Patrick Head as technical director, the duo was a force to be reckoned with as 1980 was the year they won their first of nine titles.

However, not only was the Constructors title won by Williams, but it was also their driver, Alan Jones, that won the drivers championship.

Driving in the FW07, five victories was enough for the Australian to become champion as Head presented Jones with a car that was hard to not win in.

To showcase the sheer dominance of the FW07, Williams not only won the constructors title, but dominated it by claiming almost double Ligier’s Racing tally in second.

But this was only the start as Williams followed it up with another title the following year.

Although a Williams driver didn’t win the title until 1982 with Keke Rosberg, the 1981 constructors was still won for a second time.

Despite only five seasons into its creation, they had already won two titles operating with its Ford engine but opted for Honda in 1983 which brought further success.

Their third and fourth title arrived in ’86 and ’87 as Patrick Head continued to design championship winning cars.

Regardless of the 1980s being their maiden decade in Formula One, Williams Racing showcased its superiority winning four titles, but their best years were yet to arrive due to a certain Adrian Newey.

Dominance under Newey

With its dominant duo of Frank Williams and Patrick Head, it was easy to see how championship winning cars were created in the garage.

However, adding Adrian Newey to this duo took matters to a whole new level.

Hired in 1990, five titles were won in the decade thanks to the design partnership of Head and Newey. As their FW14 chassis in 1991 and 1992, went toe-to-toe with the McLaren that was on a streak of four consecutive titles.

The utter dominance in 1992 by Nigel Mansell and Williams was the first of those five, as Mansell was victorious in eight of the opening ten races that year.

Williams then went on to win four of the next five titles with all-time greats such as Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve driving for the team in the latter years of its dominance.

But, with Newey leaving the team for McLaren at the end of 1996 and a switch to Mecachrome engines, the championship years for Williams were gone as they faced a new era and time as a midfield car.

The downfall

Although the early 2000s didn’t present any titles for Williams, they still picked up the occasional race victory and podium.

However, all of which stopped as they failed to claim a podium during 2006 for the first time since its debut year.

And here on, the real challenge for Williams started.

Constantly changing the engine between various suppliers, they wouldn’t claim another race victory until Spain 2012 through Pastor Maldanado which up to the 2019 season, remains their only victory of the decade.

With the team floating in the bottom half of the grid, 2018 was the worst of the lot.

Finishing bottom in the constructor’s championship, this was the first time in its history they had done so as the team struggle with applying vast funds to a car, unlike Mercedes and Ferrari.

Highlighted through hiring Lance Stroll as a driver in 2017 and 2018, whom would pay the team to race for them.

Now four races into 2019, Williams have failed to pick up a point with it hard to see where that next top 10 finish will be, as they count down the days until the 2021 regulations kick in.

From a front-running, innovative car to a team constantly shown the blue flag, the fall of Williams perhaps highlights the problems of Formula One and its ever-increasing gap between the top and bottom.

If something does not change, then this once-great giant in Williams may find itself out of the sport and become a team that everybody starts to forget.

Something that should be unthinkable for an icon like Williams Racing.


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