On 28th November 2021, one of motorsport’s pioneers tragically passed away at the age of 79.
Sir Frank Williams’ passing leaves behind a legacy of innovation, triumph and a privateer spirit that his team managed to maintain even as the world of motorsport became increasingly dominated by teams owned and operated by major manufacturers.
From the earliest days of the team up until 21st August 2020, the team innovated unique motorsport gears and gearboxes, aerodynamic innovations, active suspension systems, hybrid power and so many different technological advances that brought not only the team forward but also motorsport as a whole.
Here are some of the greatest innovations Williams Racing ever accomplished.
- FW07D/FW08B – Four Wheel Drive On Six Wheels
In the very early 1980s, many teams were creating some truly surreal experimental cars, often attempting to create a car that has six wheels, which theoretically adds more grip.
Whilst the Tyrell P34 is by far the most famous six-wheeled car due to its radical and truly bizarre design, the two Frank Dernie-designed efforts were arguably far more practical and could have changed F1 forever had they not been banned.
Instead of having two sets of tiny wheels at the front, the Williams FW08B car had four rear wheels, all driven (making it a rare example of a four-wheeled drive car without powering the front wheels), and was sleek and exceptionally grippy.
It was designed to be perfect for running the infamous ground effect, which whilst invented by Colin Chapman’s Lotus, the Williams team perfected with the six-wheeled car until it was banned.
- FW14B – Active Suspension Et Al
The FW14B, which dominated the 1992 Formula One season is often considered to be the greatest and most advanced F1 car ever made. Designed by aerodynamic genius Adrian Newey and driven by the aggressive Nigel Mansell, the car had no equal during that year.
It was so good in fact that its successor car, the FW15, would not be used until 1993, where it would be fitted with an automatic gearbox, anti-lock brakes and at one point a continuously variable transmission.
- Williams Hybrid Flywheel
Perhaps one of its greatest achievements was outside the realms of Formula One itself. Williams has several hybrid technology companies under its umbrella, which provides the technology for the entire Formula E and Extreme E fields, a well as ETCR.
One of their most interesting innovations, however, was a hybrid electromechanical flywheel, that stored energy using a spinning composite rotor, which meant that energy could be stored under braking and then used later.
Whilst Formula One instead went with the battery-powered KERS and later the Turbo-Hybrid ERS engines from 2014, Williams’ technology was part of a winner, in the form of the Audi R18 LMP1 car that won two World Endurance Championships, as well as four 24 Hours of Le Mans titles.