Williams have been celebrating all season, and while the results on the track aren’t exactly the greatest, the achievements behind the scenes most certainly are. 2008 is a very special year for Frank Williams, Patrick Head and the Oxfordshire team, and the Italian Grand Prix later today will apparently be the squad’s 500th grand prix. This season also marks the team’s thirtieth in Formula One and their 50,000th lap.
As with Rubens Barrichello earlier in the year, there is some question marks over the actual 500th race; the team’s Wikipedia entry states that Williams have started 512 races, while many paddock insiders say that today’s charge around Monza is the fifth-century for the squad. Either way, Williams is not normally a celebratory man unless his car has won, so ultimately, it doesn’t matter too much. What does matter is that Williams have been around for a long time, and of the current grid only Ferrari and McLaren have competed in more grands prix.
From humble beginnings in 1977, Williams Grand Prix Engineering Ltd came about after two failed attempts at Formula One. However, for his third attempt Frank hired young designer Patrick Head and thus the famous relationship was formed. Their time competing in motor sport’s pinnacle series has seen great success and tragedy. It only took Williams 37 attempts before winning; Clay Regazzoni was victorious the 1979 British Grand Prix. But equally so, the events of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix will be permanently etched in Frank and Patrick’s minds for different reasons.
Williams topped the constructors championship in 1980 and 1981, taking another two in 1986 and 1987. By 1992, Williams had moved into new territory of domination by combining the Adrian Newey designed FW14 with the Renault V10 engine. The 1992, 1993 and 1994 titles all fell Williams’s way, and after a second place in 1995, they bounced back with the 1996 and 1997 championships.
Few teams have won so much in such a short time, making Williams one of the most successful teams in Formula One’s 59 year history. Team Willy have claimed an average of 4.88 points per race, only beaten by Ferrari on 5.17 and McLaren on 5.10. Nine constructors trophies and seven drivers titles have been won by the private team, and although they haven’t won a race since the last round of the 2004 championship, their loyal fan base refuse to lose their enthusiasm.
To sum up, Williams have achieved an awful lot in the last 30 years and 500 or so races. 113 victories, 125 pole positions, 128 fastest laps and 2,554.5 points. 9 constructors and 7 drivers titles, 50,000+ laps and three sons of former Formula One drivers have raced for the team (Hill, Villeneuve and Rosberg).
Here’s to the next 500…