That Williams has emerged profitable, solvent and as keen to win as ever after all that time is a testament to the passion, resilience and determination of all those involved with Williams Racing.
Williams’ Formula 1 debut came in the 1977 Spanish Grand Prix with Patrick Neve at the wheel of a March chassis, ahead of the launch of the Williams team’s new in-house built chassis which was to follow in 1978.
Williams first Grand Prix win came in 1979, in just their second full season in Grand Prix racing, when Clay Regazzoni won the British Grand Prix at Silverstone – Williams’ home Grand Prix.
114 Grand Prix wins were to follow for Williams, a tally that took their drivers to 7 Formula 1 World Championships – Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve all taking one each – and their cars to nine World Constructors Championships (1980, 1981, 1986, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1996 and 1997).
Williams, like Lotus, Tyrrell and Brabham before them, and McLaren and Red Bull in Formula 1 today, are a ‘constructor’. A constructor is a team who builds their own car, and works with a third party to build and supply engines.
In the past this has proved to be hugely successful, with Ford, Honda and Renault taking the team to multiple championships, but can also have its drawbacks, most notably when said engine suffers from performance or reliability issues and it’s completely out of the team’s control.
Despite these drawbacks, Williams have stuck to their principles in that a Formula 1 Team must be independent, and Formula 1 must have constructors in order to succeed.
The three years between 2018 and 2020 were a fallow 36 months by Williams’ standards – their worst seasons in their 42+ year Formula 1 history – culminating in the team’s first ever pointless season.
During a topsy turvy 2020 Formula 1 season in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Williams family – who retained control over the team since its foundation in 1977 – decided that they had taken the team Sir Frank and Sir Patrick Head built from scratch as far as they could in the current financial climate and with the existing challenges facing an independent F1 constructor in a sport now dominated by manufacturers with bottomless pockets, and put the team up for sale.
In August 2021 it was bought by US investment firm Dorilton Capital (about whom there is still some mystery!), Sir Frank and daughter Claire resigned their positions on the Williams board, and amid a great deal of sadness that Sir Frank in particular had moved on, a new era had begun.
It is hoped that Dorilton Capital have the wealth behind them that Williams have been starved of of late, and that this, married with some fresh faces, a positive new approach and regulatory change in the offing for 2022 could combine to give Williams the opportunity to make their way back to the front of the field.