750th F1 Grand Prix for Williams: triumph, tragedy – and a major crash

750th F1 Grand Prix for Williams
Triumph, tragedy – and a major crash

The first bolide is built in a carpet factory. After that, the traditional Formula 1 team will celebrate Williams triumphs around Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Co. But the tragedy surrounding Ayrton Senna also leaves its mark. The racing team celebrates the 750th Grand Prix with a mix of pride and sadness.

Actually, Patrick Head just wanted to earn a few extra pounds to finish building his boat. But Frank Williams had more plans for the engineer who smelled of wood glue. “You can start Monday as my chief designer,” said Williams at the end of a half-hour conversation in the lobby of a posh hotel. Head’s work on the boat came to a standstill, instead the two British wrote Formula 1 history from 1977.

The Williams team, which built its first racing cars in an old carpet factory, won seven drivers ‘titles and nine constructors’ titles. 44 years later, at the 750th Grand Prix of the racing team in Monaco (Sunday, 3 p.m. / in the live ticker on ntv.de.), in addition to golden memories, only the iconic team name remains. The team that once made it out of the garage to the top was overwhelmed by the economic power of the plants and the billions of Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz.

Sir Frank Williams, who had been confined to a wheelchair since a traffic accident in 1986, sold his shares in the US investment company Dorilton Capital last August, and his daughter Claire retired from operational management. There is fresh money now, but not yet success. The racing team has been waiting for a championship point for 31 races and is fighting with Mick Schumacher’s Haas team to be at least penultimate in the constructors’ championship.

“In love with Ayrton Senna”

You could “not say” that the team is “on the ground”, explained Jost Capito, Williams’ managing director since February, at “auto motor und sport”. The new owners “invest heavily”, assured the 62-year-old from Siegerland: “They are interested in long-term success. This gives us the opportunity to rebuild the team.” Williams also has a pilot in George Russell who, according to Capito, has “absolutely, 100 percent” what it takes to become a world champion. At some point you want to knock upstairs again. Where Williams’ place was in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Grove team climbed the summit in its fourth Formula 1 year. Alan Jones became world champion in 1980 and the team was also ahead in the constructors’ championship. Later Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and, most recently, Jacques Villeneuve in the Williams in 1997, were honored as world champions. Numerous German drivers also celebrated successes with the team: Ralf Schumacher took his six racing victories for Williams, Heinz-Harald Frentzen became vice world champion in 1997. Pastor Maldonado’s 113th and so far last victory was achieved in Barcelona in 2012 – it was one of the “Sensation” category.

But Williams also stands for Ayrton Senna’s fatal accident on May 1, 1994 in Imola. “Many blamed us for it. As if we had stolen a painting by Michelangelo from the world,” said Frank Williams later, looking back. His daughter Claire believes that he didn’t get over this black day. “Ayrton was a god in our house,” she once told the English newspaper “Sun”: “Frank was in love with Ayrton, so to speak. He crept into his heart, into his mind, and he always wanted to put him in his racing car. Dads Wish came true, but it ended in the worst possible way. “

Claire Williams said her father never spoke to anyone about it, “but you can see the pain in his eyes every time he thinks about the accident.”