Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited, currently racing in Formula One as Williams Martini Racing, is a British Formula One motor racing team and constructor. It was founded and is run by team owner Sir Frank Williams and automotive engineer Sir Patrick Head. The team was formed in 1977 after Frank Williams’ two earlier unsuccessful F1 operations: Frank Williams Racing Cars (1969 to 1975) and Wolf-Williams Racing (1976). All of Williams F1 chassis are called “FW” then a number, the FW being the initials of team owner, Frank Williams.
Williams’ first race was the 1977 Spanish Grand Prix, where the new team ran a March chassis for Patrick Nève. Williams started manufacturing its own cars the following year, and Switzerland’s Clay Regazzoni won Williams’ first race at the 1979 British Grand Prix. At the 1997 British Grand Prix, Canadian Jacques Villeneuve scored the team’s 100th race victory, making Williams one of only three teams in Formula One, alongside Ferrari and fellow British team McLaren, to win 100 races. Williams won nine Constructors’ Championships between 1980 and 1997. This stood as a record until Ferrari surpassed it in 2000.
Drivers for Williams have included Australia’s Alan Jones; Finland’s Keke Rosberg; Britain’s Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and Jenson Button; France’s Alain Prost; Brazil’s Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna; and Canada’s Jacques Villeneuve. Each of these drivers, with the exception of Senna and Button, have captured one drivers’ title with the team. Of those who have won the championship with Williams, only Jones, Rosberg and Villeneuve actually defended their title while still with the team. Piquet moved to Lotus after winning the 1987 championship, Mansell moved to the American-based Indy Cars after winning the 1992 championship, Prost retired from racing after his 4th World Championship in 1993, while Hill moved to Arrows after winning in 1996.
Williams have worked with many engine manufacturers, most successfully with Renault: Williams won five of their nine constructors’ titles with the French company. Along with Ferrari, McLaren, Benetton and Renault, Williams is one of a group of five teams that won every Constructors’ Championship between 1979 and 2008 and every Drivers’ Championship from 1984 to 2008.
Williams F1 also has business interests beyond Formula One racing. Based in Grove, Oxfordshire, UK, Williams has established Williams Advanced Engineering and Williams Hybrid Power which take technology originally developed for Formula One and adapt it for commercial applications. In April 2014, Williams Hybrid Power were sold to GKN. Williams Advanced Engineering had a technology centre in Qatar until it was closed in 2014.