The motorsport and automotive worlds recently mourned the death of Sir Frank Williams - the last F1 team principal whose name still hung above the door of the team he founded, even at the time of his passing on Sunday, November 28, 2021.

Sir Frank founded Williams Grand Prix Engineering in 1977 in Grove, Oxfordshire. It would go on to become one of the great names in Formula 1.

For almost five decades now, the Williams name has become a byword for success in F1 - the team has won nine constructors titles, seven drivers’ championships, and scored 114 wins. In terms of success, these numbers make Williams the second most successful constructor ever in F1 history behind Ferrari, and the fourth most successful team ever when it comes to victories.

Damon Hill is one of the most-loved drivers’ champions to have ever driven for Williams
Damon Hill is one of the most-loved drivers’ champions to have ever driven for Williams
© Pinterest

The Williams name is not just synonymous with the championships it hoovered up during the 1980s, ‘90s, and more sporadically, the wins during the 2000s and 2010s. Some of F1’s greatest drivers - Alan Jones, Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, and Ayrton Senna - have also all driven for Sir Frank’s outfit at some time during their careers.

To celebrate Sir Frank’s remarkable life and 35-year stint as his team’s boss, we have put together a list of some of our favourite Williams F1 cars over the team’s 44 years of operation - not all of these cars are title or even race winners from Grove’s back catalogue. However, each one of them represents something special in relation to one of F1’s most treasured teams and the remarkable character who started it all...

Rest in Peace, Sir. You’ll be missed.

Williams Ford FW07

Williams Ford FW07
The Williams FW07 was so good, that Williams ran it from 1979 to 1981 until it was replaced by the FW08 mid-way through the following season
© Wikipedia

The 1979 FW07 was a car of many firsts for Williams. It was the car that won the team its first race thanks to Clay Reggazzoni at the 1979 British Grand Prix. The following season, plucky Aussie Alan Jones took the updated car - the FW07B - to that year’s World Drivers’ Championship. Thanks to Jones’ teammate Carlos Reutemann finishing third in the drivers’ standings, Williams also scooped its first Manufacturers’ title. The FW07’s magic lay in its ground effect aerodynamics, both of which made the car stiff and light. These driver-friendly attributes also helped its drivers overcome the shortcomings of the car’s naturally-aspirated Ford DFV motor, which was prone to misfiring when the ground effect kicked in. What’s more, the engine was fast-becoming outclassed by the turbocharged units used by Renault and Alfa Romeo. Yet despite the FW07’s mechanical shortcomings during its latter years, it’s Patrick Head-designed chassis ensured it remained competitive. The FW07C won the 1981 Constructors’ Championship, and it scored a second-place finish in the hands of Keke Rosberg at the 1982 United States Grand; two events prior to being replaced by the updated FW08, which the Finn drove to the 1982 drivers’ title.

F1 SEASON(S) ACTIVE: 1979 - 1981

  • NOTABLE DRIVERS: Clay Reggazzoni, Alan Jones, Carlos Reutemann, Keke Rosberg
  • CHAMPIONSHIPS: Drivers and Constructors (1980), Constructors (1981)
  • WINS: 15
  • POLE POSITIONS: 8

Williams Honda FW11

Williams Honda FW11
Fast, brutal, and successful are three words that accurately describe the title-winning Williams FW11 and FW11B driven by Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell
© Twitter

The Frank Dernie-designed Williams FW11 is one of the most recognisable machines of Formula 1’s turbocharged era of the mid-1980s. Alongside being the car in which Nigel Mansell lost the 1986 drivers’ title thanks to a spectacular blowout at the final round of the season, the FW11 and its successor, the FW11B, were quick. Spectacularly quick. Their 1.5-litre turbocharged Honda engine would produce between 800bhp to 1,000bhp in race trim, and with the boost fully wound up during qualifying, the FW11 and FW11B churned out 1,200bhp at 12,000rpm. The FW11 would also prove to be somewhat of a pick-me-up for the entire team. In 1986, Sir Frank suffered a car accident which would render him quadriplegic for the rest of his life. However, he faced the condition with characteristic bravery and stoicism, and eventually returned to the paddock to head up his team. In 1986, Williams won the manufacturers’ championship, and this win - in light of Sir Frank’s accident - undoubtedly proved to be one of the motivating factors in Williams’ drivers’ and constructors’ grand slam in 1987, with Nelson Piquet coming out on top after Mansell was forced to sit out the rest of the season following an injury during qualifying at the Japanese Grand Prix. The FW11 and FW11B competed in 32 races and took 18 victories - a staggering win rate of 56%.

F1 SEASON(S) ACTIVE: 1986 - 1987

  • NOTABLE DRIVERS: Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet
  • CHAMPIONSHIPS: Constructors (1986), Drivers and Constructors (1987)
  • WINS: 18
  • POLE POSITIONS: 16

Williams Renault FW14B

Williams Renault FW14B
The Renault-powered Williams FW14B was a mind-blowingly complex machine which would eventually give Nigel Mansell his first - and last - F1 drivers’ championship in 1992
© Goodwood

Every so often, an F1 team builds an absolute game-changer of a car, and the 1992 Williams FW14B was very much one of these. Penned by design guru Adrian Newey, the Renault V10-powered FW14B is peak F1 at its brilliant best - unlike any other F1 car on the ‘92 grid, the FW14 boasted plenty of ‘first-time’ electronic gizmos including active suspension, anti-lock brakes, and traction control. Given that the car took 10 wins from 16 rounds and Mansell finally wrapped-up the Drivers’ Championship with five rounds remaining, it’s hardly surprising that most of the car’s technological wizardry was banned for the 1993 season. Even today in 2021, the FW14 still lays claim to the biggest pole-winning margin in history, after Nigel Mansell qualified 1.9 seconds ahead of his teammate, Riccardo Patrese, in second. In short, the FW14B isn’t just “a great Williams”, it’s one of the greatest cars in Formula 1 history.

F1 SEASON(S) ACTIVE: 1992

  • NOTABLE DRIVERS: Nigel Mansell, Riccardo Patrese
  • CHAMPIONSHIPS: Drivers’ and constructors’ (1992)
  • WINS: 10
  • POLE POSITIONS: 15

Williams Renault FW18

Williams Renault FW18
The 1996 Williams FW18 is one of the most-loved cars in the Williams F1 team’s back catalogue after Damon Hill took it to the 1996 drivers’ title
© Goodwood

For kids who grew up in the UK during the mid-1990s, the greatest Williams F1 car of them all is this - the 1996 FW18. After two years of trying, it was the FW18 that took British national treasure, Damon Hill, to his first and only F1 world title. Once again designed by Adrian Newey, the elegant FW18 was the dominant car of the 1996 season. Hill took eight wins from 16 races, with his young Canadian hotshot teammate, Jacques Villneuve, racking up another four for the Grove-based team during his rookie year. What’s more, the FW18 will forever be synonymous with Murray Walker’s now-famous line, “I've got to stop now, because I've got a lump in my throat,” which he said on-air after Hill crossed the line to win the 1996 Japanese Grand Prix - and with it - that season’s drivers’ championship. Overall, the FW18 was a legendary car, with a legendary livery, driven by a legendary driver.

F1 SEASON(S) ACTIVE: 1996

  • NOTABLE DRIVERS: Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve
  • CHAMPIONSHIPS: Drivers’ and constructors’ (1)
  • WINS: 12
  • POLE POSITIONS:

Williams Renault FW19

The last of the Newey Williams F1 cars, the The 1997 FW19 is also the last car that won a title for Sir Frank’s team thanks to Jacques Villeneuve
The last of the Newey Williams F1 cars, the The 1997 FW19 is also the last car that won a title for Sir Frank’s team thanks to Jacques Villeneuve
© Pinterest

Was the 1997 FW19 the last great Williams? We’ll leave you to decide that, but it makes a strong case for itself - after all, it’s the last Newey-penned Williams, it’s the last Rothmans-liveried Williams, and it’s the final Williams F1 car to win a championship. Despite the usual heroics from Michael Schumacher in the vastly inferior Ferrari F310B, Jacques Villeneuve came out on top after his season-long battle with Schumacher to win Williams’ last drivers’ title to this day. After Schumacher was excluded from the ‘97 championship standings following his controversial clash with Villeneuve at the Jérez season finale, Williams’ second driver, Heinz-Harald Frentzen was bumped up to second in the championship - another last for the Grove outfit.

F1 SEASON(S) ACTIVE: 1997

  • NOTABLE DRIVERS: Jacques Villeneuve, Heinz-Harald Frentzen
  • CHAMPIONSHIPS: Drivers’ and constructors’ (1)
  • WINS:
  • POLE POSITIONS:

BMW Williams FW25

BMW Williams FW25
Powered by a sonorous 3.0L BMW V10, was the FW25 the car that should have won the 2003 F1 title over Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari?
© Twitter

Formula 1 of the early-2000s was a period marked by Ferrari and Michael Schumacher’s domination of the sport, with the Scuderia and the seven-time world champion winning each constructors’ and drivers’ title from 2000 to 2004. However, the mighty Schumacher/Ferrari combo was almost dethroned in 2003 by Juan Pablo Montoya and the mighty BMW-powered Williams FW25. The 2003 season was marked by a tyre war between Michelin as-worn by Williams and the Bridgestone-shod Ferrari F2003 GAs. A regulation change ensured that the Ferraris were not as competitive as in previous years, and Montoya and Ralf Schumacher took two wins apiece to challenge the Scuderia right up until the penultimate round of the year. Despite being ultimately pipped to the 2003 title, the FW25 remains a fan favourite thanks to its gorgeously simple blue and white HP livery, and the now-legendary 3.0L, 940bhp BMW V10 which reached a screaming 19,200rpm at full throttle.

F1 SEASON(S) ACTIVE: 2003

  • NOTABLE DRIVERS: Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher
  • CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0
  • WINS: 4
  • POLE POSITIONS: 4

BMW Williams FW26

BMW Williams FW26
he 2004 FW26 didn’t enjoy the successes of its predecessor, but it represented a brave decision for Williams to try something unorthodox in its efforts to dethrone the Ferrari and Schumacher juggernaut
© Wikipedia

Following the successes of the 2003 F1 season, Williams - once again with BMW power - strode into 2004 confident that it had learned from the mistakes of the previous year. It would be the year in which it would finally beat the Ferrari/Schumacher package and return both championships to the United Kingdom. Sadly, the team’s optimism proved unfounded, and during the early part of the season at least, the Walrus-nosed car proved to be nowhere near as competitive as the all-conquering Ferrari F2004. However, after Williams reverted to a more conventional nose cone design not too dissimilar to the one fitted to its predecessor, the team appeared to unlock the car’s sweet spot. Following the redesigned car’s introduction at the Hungarian Grand Prix, Montoya went on to record the then-fastest-ever lap ever recorded by an F1 car at the Italian Grand Prix with an average speed of almost 163mph, and the Colombian rounded the year off with a win and a fastest lap in Brazil before he headed to pastures new at McLaren to partner Kimi Räikkönen. It may not be one of the all time ‘great’ cars to have been put together by Williams, but it’s unusual original design and later-unlocked potential summed up the innovation and grittiness that determined - and still determines - Sir Frank’s team.

F1 SEASON(S) ACTIVE: 2004

  • NOTABLE DRIVERS: Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher
  • CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0
  • WINS: 1
  • POLE POSITIONS: 1

Williams-Renault FW34

Williams-Renault FW34
Pastor Maldonado and Williams won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix against all the odds ahead of Fernando Alonso with the FW31
© Williams F1

Yes, yes, the whole “Crashtor Maldonado” thing does have an element of truth to it, but listen up - Venezuela’s Pastor Maldonado remains the last driver to win a race for Williams; something he did convincingly with a pole-to-flag victory at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. After a number of unremarkable years with Toyota and Cosworth, Williams rejoined forces with Renault - the manufacturer with whom it had won multiple titles in the 1990s - in a bid to recapture some of its glory years. With his victory at the Circuito de Barcelona - Williams’ first win since Montoya’s Brazil 2004 win - happy days appeared to be here again with the fast, but somewhat erratic Maldonado. Unfortunately, the Spanish victory was as good as things got in 20212. The team finished the season down in eighth in the constructors’ championship as a result of Maldonado regularly crashing out of good points-paying positions. The fact that his teammate, Bruno Senna, was largely off the pace all year didn’t help the team’s cause much, either. Yet whilst it may not have the lustre of some of its more well-known stablemates, the fact remains that the FW31 is the last car to have ever won a race for Williams. For that alone, it deserves to be on this list.

F1 SEASON(S) ACTIVE:

  • NOTABLE DRIVERS: Pastor Maldonado, Valtteri Bottas
  • CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0
  • WINS: 1
  • POLE POSITIONS: 1

Williams Mercedes-Benz FW36

Williams Mercedes-Benz FW36
Driven by Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, the FW36 is the most successful Williams car of the hybrid era after it took the team to third in the 2014 constructors’ standings
© Planet F1

It may seem a strange choice to include a car that didn’t even win a race for Williams, but the 2014 Williams FW36 remains the team’s most successful car of Formula 1’s hybrid era. For 2014, Williams switched to Mercedes power, and signed 11-time race winner Felipe Massa to partner Valtteri Bottas. With Martini as its title sponsor, the rejuvenated Williams team produced an instant frontrunner. Massa took pole at the Austrian Grand Prix with Bottas in second, and the team scored nine further podium finishes throughout the year. Ultimately, victory eluded both drivers. However, Massa came to within 2.5 seconds of the top step at the Abu Dhabi season ender, and Williams finished third in the 2014 constructors’ championship. Whilst the team repeated this feat the following year, it scored less points than in 2014. Sadly, the team’s gradual slide back down the grid had begun. It wasn’t until the team was bought out by the Dorilton private investment group in 2020 that Williams’ began its path back to where it rightfully belongs at the front of the F1 grid.

F1 SEASON(S) ACTIVE: 2014

  • NOTABLE DRIVERS: Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa
  • CHAMPIONSHIPS:
  • WINS:
  • POLE POSITIONS:

Which is your favourite Williams F1 car from over the years? Drop us a message here to tell us!