Where did it go wrong for Williams?


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    In the nineties, Williams was one of the most successful constructors, as can also be read in the “dominant cars”-thread on this forum. This year however, the Williams cars are yet to score their very first point. So, where did it go wrong? What bad decisions, misfortunes,… did happen to the team that lead to this downfall? And what lessons can be learned by the current top teams? Your opinions are much appreciated!



    Newey wanted a bigger share in the team, Frank Williams said no, Newey left for McLaren.

    What happened after that is they lost Montoya.



    I reckon the start of the downturn was the breakdown of the relationship with BMW. They had a quick car in the early 2000s, but pretty inconsistent drivers Ralf and Montoya. IIRC Mario Thiessen wanted a bit more of a stake and we know Frank’s answer is always “NO” so after that became clear BMW bought into Sauber. Don’t forget back then everything was in a state of boom (talk of the breakaway series) and manufacturer backing was really important to win. Williams have always had a strong engineering ethic but the partnerships with Cosworth and Toyota didn’t work out, possibly Patrick Head became a bit of a dinosaur too and held onto too much for too long.

    It’s had to say how reliant they are on Maldonado’s money now, even though he’s obviously doing a decent job too. I guess lack of alignment with a big engine manufacturer hit them hard, and the financial struggle has since hurt development.



    2003 was the last time Williams were a real title contender. They won 4 out of 16 races that season. Montoya was arguably the favorite for the WDC with 2 races to go, but he couldn’t pass Barrichello in Indianapolis without punting him off. Two weeks later in Japan, they lost the constructors championship.

    Then in 2004 they lost Ralf and Juan Pablo, and in 2005 they lost BMW; then the team dropped into a big dip and never really recovered.


    R.J. O’Connell

    I can probably point to the departure of BMW. Webber and Heidfeld never won for the team in ’05, but they weren’t totally terrible.

    I just hope I won’t have to see the team ultimately go the way of Lotus I/Brabham/Tyrrell any time soon.



    I actually don’t know a lot about Williams history since I started watching F1 back in 2009. But from what I have seen the last couple of years, they are always the team with decent ideas, but terribly underperforming. In 2012 they had a pretty good car most of the year, but with a bad driver lineup they weren’t able to harvest the succes their engineering team deserved. Had they’d have some consistent top drivers, they’d may have finished in the top4 of the constructors championship. Then all of a sudden, they lost something over the winter, and look where they are now. It’s 2011 all over again.



    Fantastic facilites at their Grove base, and some genius ideas have still come out of there during the barren years including double diffuser and the compact gear box.

    Losing their factory Renault deal will have hurt, and then losing a factory BMW deal has also hurt them. The just don’t have the financial resources to compete at the absolute top of F1 anymore.


    Craig Woollard

    Losing Newey and Renault back in the 90s must have been colossally bad for them. They were quick if inconsistent in the BMW days, and just never really seemed happy with Toyota or Cosworth. The return to Renault power obviously brought immediate impact with Maldonado’s win in Spain and running towards the front in quite a few races, but I think/hope they’re focusing on 2014, which is why this year’s car is just a revised version of last year’s car.


    I guess part of their debacle came when Senna died. He was not the whole team, but remember his death led to a trial investigating which parts of the cars had “fatigue”. So probably that also lead to a less aggressive development (for a couple of years). After Hill and Villeneuve, they failed to retain Villeneuve (any resemblance with Button / Brawn? and the consequent fallout of Mercedes?) and then they couldn’t find a good drivers pair until Ralf and Montoya, but again, they couldn’t build the environment to retain Montoya to McLaren and Ralf to Toyota (actually Ralf showed his peak in 2003 and started to decline). The post Schumacher era didn’t bring any great rookies into William’s crew.
    I hope they can, the sooner the better, build up and keep momentum again. They deserve another historic chance. They must drop Maldonado and see if Bottas is worth it. Or start on the scratch with new drivers in 2014.


    R.J. O’Connell

    Maldonado’s won more races with Williams than Webber, Rosberg, Heidfeld, Barrichello and Hulkenberg ever did – and the speed was no Barcelona-only fluke last year.

    “Hashtag” Bottas is as quick and consistent despite a year away from actual racing scenarios (having more time in an F1 car than the GP2 graduates isn’t a bad trade though), but isn’t going too far in a lemon of a chassis like the one they’ve got now.

    If there’s a problem with Williams this year, I don’t think it’s their drivers.



    After Newey left they never seemed to be able to develope the cars aero. The BMW engine had great power which made up for this. But their main problem has always been car aero since 98.



    To me it seems like Williams have on years & off years.

    In 2010, they finished sixth in the Constructors Championship with 69 Points.

    In 2011, they finished ninth with a dismal 5 Points.

    In 2012, they finished eighth in the Constructors Championship with a car capable of finishing at least 6th, probably 5th.

    Many people blame Maldonado for the failure to finish higher in the Championship, but I think that is undeserved. He did what was expected of him & even won a race.

    If it was not for him Williams might not even be here today. Many people seem to forget that he brought $46 Million in sponsorship to Williams in 2012 alone.

    Also if Hamilton hadn’t shunted Maldonado off track at the Monaco Grand Prix in 2011 he would have scored twice as many points as Barrichello in the 2011 season.



    the start of their ultimate downfall can be traced to one word.



    R.J. O’Connell

    ^ Which were more or less rebadged ’97 Renault engines.

    Wouldn’t be too bad if Mercedes, Ferrari, and Mugen-Honda hadn’t already passed them by in ’98.


    Force Maikel

    Well I think Williams problems are just a build up of multiple aspects: losing newey, the rule changes, no star drivers and most recently Frank lost his heir Adam Parr and then shortly after the second heir Toto Wolf. He’s made Clair Williams deputy team principal so will step in for him at the most races. I don’t think she’s up to the task. First she worked as a press lady for the team and was promoted to head of marketing only two years ago. Making her second in line now is way too early and she doesn’t even appear to follow the sport properly. At a meeting organized by Bernie she first found out Wolf had signed with Mercedes (that must have been an awkward moment given he had left the team 2 months earlier). It would be ironic and a shame if a Williams would become the doom of the team just because of inexperience and disinterest

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