Following two dominant seasons for Williams and the FW11, 1988 was to prove to be an incredibly trying season for the team, in their efforts to compete against the turbo-engined cars of McLaren, Lotus and Ferrari.
Honda were reportedly keen for Williams to oust Nigel Mansell and replace him with Honda test driver Satoru Nakajima for 1988. Sir Frank was equally keen not to do that, and as a result Honda engineered a drive for Nakajima at Lotus partnering Williams departee and 1987 World Champion Nelson Piquet, and the contract to supply engines went too.
This left Williams without a works contract for 1988, and the team faced the very real prospect of having a car capable of winning races, but an engine that was not.
As it turns out, it was a year of transition as the team went from a works contract with Honda in 1987, to a works contract with Renault in 1989, and the underpowered Judd normally aspirated engine was used to bridge the gap between the two.
At the season opener in Brazil, despite Mansell qualifying in second place, his Williams-Judd recorded a top speed some 15mph down on the McLarens through the speed trap.
Much of the early part of the season was spent trying to capitalise on the potential shown by the active suspension in the latter part of 1987, however, the decision was taken during qualifying for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone to abandon it, and revert to the passively suspended setup after a fruitless few months. This allowed Mansell to finish second, securing his first podium of the season.
1988 proved to be Williams’ first winless season of the 1980s, Mansell eventually scoring two podiums, and seventh in the World Constructors Championship.
For 1989, and with an exclusive contract with Renault, the FW12C was much more competitive. A new car was planned for later on in the season, but before it was complete the FW12C powered Riccardo Patrese to three consecutive second places, and Thierry Boutsen to his Maiden Grand Prix win in Montreal.
Williams FW12 Specs
|Designed by:||Patrick Head, Frank Dernie & Enrique Scalabroni|
|Year(s) active:||1988, 1989|
|Official entrant:||Canon Williams Team|
|Drivers:||Nigel Mansell, Riccardo Patrese, Thierry Boutsen, Martin Brundle, Jean-Louis Schlesser|
|Engine:||Judd n.a. 3.5 litre V8/Renault n.a. 3.5 litre V10|
|Transmission:||Williams/Hewland 6 speed manual|
|Preceded by:||Williams FW11|
|Succeeded by:||Williams FW13|
Williams FW12 Results