After two competitive seasons in 1989 and 1990, Williams and Renault were keen to move up to the next level for 1991 and compete for championships.
Adrian Newey‘s arrival heralded a new dawn at Williams that would be the beginning of the team’s most successful period and introduce a new level of technical sophistication to F1 not seen before.
“[The FW14] was a good car from the word go with a lot of geometric relevance from the Leyton House cars because of Adrian’s presence.” said Patrick Head.
In testing the car showed sufficient potential to persuade Nigel Mansell to postpone his retirement and return to the team as #1 driver for a further two years.
Because of the technical complexity of the FW14, the early part of the 1991 season was compromised a the car suffered from a plague of mechanical issues while the team mastered the semi-automatic gearbox and its other wizardry.
Meanwhile, Ayrton Senna in the McLaren won the opening four races giving him an ultimately unassailable lead in the World Drivers Championship, despite Williams drivers Mansell and Patrese winning seven races between them once the team got on top of the FW14’s gremlins.
Mansell/Williams finished the 1991 season in second place to Senna/McLaren in both the World Drivers and World Constructors Championships.
For 1992, the reliability of the FW14B was much improved and it was the class of the field. The only real difference to the appearance of the car was a slightly longer front section and two protrusions connecting the monocoque to the pushrods, housing the active suspension hardware.
“The main difference between the FW14 [used in 1991] and the FW14B was the active suspension.” said Patrick Head.
“It’s remarkable looking back on the programme now – In 2011, we were running the 12th model of the front wing by the end of the year, but on the FW14 the aerodynamic modifications were minimal.”
Williams’, and in-particular Mansell’s dominance in 1992 was such that in qualifying for the British Grand Prix, Mansell’s qualifying time was 2 seconds quicker than Patrese, who, in-turn, was a second quicker than the rest of the field.
For some reason, Formula 1 historians seem to lament this season as being a victory of technology over racing, and yet seem to laud the 1988 season when McLaren-Honda were equally dominant, and yet two thirds of the field were hamstrung with engines delivering 40bhp less.
Williams went on to win both titles in 1992, and found itself at the centre of a scramble between the world’s top drivers to become the next Williams World Champion.
Williams FW14 Specs
|Designed by:||Patrick Head & Adrian Newey|
|Year(s) active:||1991, 1992|
|Official entrant:||Canon Williams Team|
|Drivers:||Nigel Mansell, Riccardo Patrese|
|Engine:||Renault normally aspirated 3.5 litre V10|
|Transmission:||Williams 6 speed semi-automatic|
|Preceded by:||Williams FW13|
|Succeeded by:||Williams FW15|
Williams FW14 Results