Formula 1 writer
A special week for Formula One
Posted on: 03:59 PM IST Apr 18, 2012 IST
This week has been special in Formula One. Nico Rosberg won his first race in six years. There was plenty of reason for Mercedes to celebrate as Rosberg's win meant that the Silver Arrows works team had a win in Formula One after 57 years. However, celebrations were also due for the legendary Frank Williams, the owner and founder of Williams F1 team, who turned 70 on Monday. He must have been delighted by the performance of his drivers, Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado (7th and 8th), at the Chinese GP on the eve of his birthday.
However, until 15 years ago, Sir Frank would not have been too impressed with this performance. After all, Williams was the most dominant team for the better part of 1990s, winning four drivers and five constructors championships between 1992 and 1997. Interestingly, three of the drivers who became champions during this time - Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve - won their only world championship at Williams. The 1992 Williams car was considered to be the most technologically advanced of its time. No wonder drivers like Mansell, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve were behind its steering wheel during this time.
Of course, Williams didn't become successful only at the beginning of the 1990s. Though not as dominant, it was a force to reckon with in the 1980s as well as it won two back-to-back constructors' championships in 1980, 1981 and 1986, 1987. It also won three drivers' championships, one of them by Keke Rosberg, father of Nico, in 1982. But it was in the period between 1992 and 1997 that Williams achieved near invincibility. Had it not been for the tragic death of their driver Ayrton Senna and the heroics of Michael Schumacher in a Benetton, Williams would have added yet another drivers' championship in 1994.
Williams' status as a top flight team could be gauged from its impressive record. It has an astonishing 113 wins, 126 pole positions and 130 fastest laps against its name. The nine constructors' and seven drivers' championships makes it one of the three most successful teams in Formula One, the other two being Ferrari and McLaren.
Post 1997, though, the team lost the winning momentum. Since Villeneuve's triumph that season, Williams hasn't won a single drivers' or constructors' championships. Their last win was at the 2004 Brazilian GP. However, the team, though not winning, was able to be among the top five between 2000 and 2005, the time of their partnership with BMW. In fact, in 2002 and 2003, it finished second in constructors' championship.
From 2006 onwards, their performance dipped further, with the team struggling to finish in the top five. The team's performance hit rock bottom last year when it finished ninth out of 13 in constructors' standings, managing only five points in the entire season.
The 2012 season, though, has begun on a positive note with Bruno Senna, who replaced the veteran Rubens Barrichello, showing great promise. Senna managed to finish 6th and 7th at Malaysia and China while his team-mate Maldonado opened his points account after finishing eighth in China.
Considering the disappointing performance over the past few years, especially in 2011, Sir Frank couldn't have asked for a better birthday gift than the double-points finish on Sunday.