The AT&T Williams F1 team, was established by Sir Frank Williams, together with Patrick Head. It was known at that time as the Williams Grand Prix Engineering team, and has since then become one of the three top contenders in the world of Formula One. In its history of Formula One racing, the Williams Team has walked away with nine Constructor’s titles. Their first race was at the Spanish Grand Prix in 1977, with Clay Regazzoni (from Switzerland) securing the first win for the team in 1979 at the British Grand Prix. The Williams team’s 100th win was made possible by Jacques Villeneuve in 1997 at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Together with McLaren and Ferrari, the Williams team consistently features amongst the top contenders. The chassis for the Williams F1 team, always has a “FW” followed by a number, being the initials for the proud team owner, Frank Williams.
Frank Williams had tried his hand in Formula One racing twice before founding Williams F1 in 1977. He previously had been running two operations, namely Walter Wolf Racing and Frank Williams Racing Cars. But it was the Williams team that brought him success. Many famous drivers have been behind the wheel of a Williams car, and to name a few: Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Keke Rosberg and Ayrton Senna. In 1994, Patrick Head, Frank Williams and the Williams designer, Adrian Newey, faced manslaughter charges, after the tragic and fatal accident at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994, that took Ayrton Senna’s life. The three men were cleared of all charges in 2005.
The Williams team did not only have different drivers contributing to their success, but also different engines. Williams was able to win five Constructor titles with a Renault engine. Frank Williams did not achieve the success he so desired with his Frank Williams Racing Cars operation. He established the Walter Wolf Racing outfit after many promises from the millionaire, but due to the uncompetitive cars and unfulfilled promises, Williams relocated to Didcot, and the birth of Williams F1 had started. Williams recruited Patrick Head as engineer of his new project and the “William-Head” partnership lasted throughout the years. The following years would see many successes and many disappointments and heartbreaking losses, but despite all the challenges of the changing times, Williams has always come through.
2007 was a year of changes for the Williams F1 Team – Toyota supplied the engines for the season; Alexander Wurz moved up from his position as test driver to the team’s second driver, thereby replacing Mark Webber; Kazuki Nakajima took the position of test driver; and AT&T became the primary official sponsor of the team, after having withdrawn its sponsorship of McLaren when they signed with competitor Vodafone. Nico Rosberg remained the number one driver of the team and tallied up a respectable number of points for the Williams F1 Team. Wurz did not perform as well and upon announcing his retirement, test driver Nakajima took over for the final race of the season in Brazil where he started near the back of the grid and managed to finish in tenth spot.
With Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima as principle drivers, the Williams F1 Team had its fair share of both successes and disappointments in 2008, finishing the season eighth in the constructions championship. Despite a disappointing 2008 season and rumblings of discontent from Rosberg, both drivers stayed on with Williams for the 2009 season. Towards the end of the 2009 season it was announced that the team would not be renewing its partnership with Toyota and would be looking for a new engine supplier for 2010. This turned out to be the UK-based private company Cosworth, an automotive engineering company specializing in auto racing engines that supplied the Cosworth CA2010 for the Williams FW32 cars. By the end of 2009 the Williams F1 Team had claimed 9 Constructors’ Championships, 7 Drivers’ Championships, 113 race victories, 125 pole positions and 130 fastest laps. Drivers for the 2010 season are Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg, with Valtteri Bottas as test driver.
The 2008 Turkish Grand Prix turned out to be just the fast-paced, action-packed event that fans and spectators were hoping for. Punctured tires, scary accidents and some brilliant driving kept pulses racing as Felipe Massa struggled to defend his position at the front of the pack. In the end Massa managed to take the winner’s trophy for the Turkish Grand Prix for the third time in a row.
As the cars lined up on the starting grid that day, massive clouds gathered above threatening rain. There was no telling what would happen. The drivers spent ages waiting for the lights to be switched on and there was an air of tension all around. When the lights finally signaled the start of the race, the scene erupted into chaos. But in seconds the main contenders for the trophy erupted from the mess: Brazilian Felipe Massa made a clean break from the rest of the pack while Hamilton managed to slot into second place. In his efforts to gain ground, Raikkonen’s front wing nudged Kovalainen’s rear tire, puncturing it and causing a major setback for him.
At the back it was a confusion as Fisichella drove into the back of Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams, causing both to end their race before it really started. Vettel and Sutil suffered sufficient damage from the collision to have to be sent to the pits for repair work, giving them little hope of ever reclaiming the ground lost. Meanwhile Raikkonen lost his position at third place to Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica due to heavy braking, but he was determined to reclaim his spot and immediately put into practice the perfect strategy. By closely tailing Alonso, Raikkonen was able to slipstream his opponent, allowing him to pull out and overtake. The two struggled neck in neck for a nail-biting second before the Ferrari suddenly disappeared into the distance.
Things continued to prove interesting after driver Hamilton shot out of the pit stops into first place ahead of Massa. Massa seemed to yield to the position and didn’t fight it. The majority of drivers seemed to settle where they were and the race proceeded without much excitement for a while.
By the end of the race it seemed clear that Massa was back in the lead and no one would be challenging his position. However the battle for second and third was a tight one fought by Hamilton and Raikkonen. In the final round of stops Hamilton managed to change his tires and get back out on the track extremely fast, leaving him in second place with Raikkonen pushing to reclaim his position. Raikkonen continued to hassle Hamilton for the remaining 16 laps until at last he decided to settle for third instead of risking an accident. So in the end it was Massa who took first place, followed by Hamilton in second and Raikkonen in third. The three drivers were clearly driving much better than the rest of the field and deserved their prizes.
The announcement that Alex Wurz was retiring from Formula One, is said to have been expected. Speculation around Wurz has been rife since the beginning of the season. Fans were a little shocked at his decision, as he has been enjoying a rather successful season with the Williams Team, crossing the finish line in third place at the Canadian Grand Prix and taking fourth position at the European Grand Prix. His retirement from Formula One was with immediate effect, so Kazuki Nakajima was in the driver seat at the season’s final race in Brazil on 21 October 2007.
To become a racing driver was in his genes, as his father, Franz Wurz, was a European Rallycross Champion during his career. Alex Wurz was born on 15 February 1974 and started his racing career the same way most drivers do, karting. By 1993, Wurz was driving in the German Formula Three, after which he joined the Joest Racing Team in 1996. One of his greatest achievements was winning the Le Mans 24 Hour, together with Manuel Reuter and Davy Jones.
Alex Wurz made his debut on the Formula One circuit in 1997 as a replacement driver for Gerhard Berger, on the Benetton Team. He returned to his position as a test driver after Berger returned, but was given a full-time driving position with partner Giancarlo Fisichella in 1998. Wurz started with the McLaren Team in 2001, as a third driver and once again had the opportunity to show his worth in 2005, when a injured Juan Pablo Montoya could not drive, Wurz brought a respectable fourth place home at the San Marino Grand Prix. And it was not an easy drive. Wurz was so much bigger than the other drivers that fitting his large physique into the cockpit, forced him to only use one hand while driving, most of the way. McLaren held onto Alex Wurz for as long as they could, as he was extremely talented and skilled with development and technical problems. But in 2006, he moved over to the Williams F1 team as reserve driver and a test driver. In 2007, he started to drive as the full-time racing driver for the team.
He is driver that will be sorely missed by the racing industry and by his fans. When Alex Wurz spoke to the media, he had this to say: “In such a hard-fought environment as Formula One, I have always maintained that if you have a moment’s doubt about what you are doing then it is time to stop. Privately I began to have these thoughts earlier this year and so have decided that now is the time to make my announcement. Racing this season has been a real pleasure, especially securing the podium in Canada – which was pretty sweet, along with a number of other strong races – but now it is time to call it a day. I’d like to thank the team for accepting my decision – and I wish them all the best for the last race of the year.” And with that, Alex Wurz bowed out, as the gentlemen he will always be remember for being, both on and off the track.