FORMULA 1’S GROUND-EFFECT KING
he Williams FW07 earned 15 grand prix
victories, one Formula 1 Drivers’ World
Championship, and two Constructors’ titles.
And at a time of extraordinarily rapid
change in F1 technology, despite the
increasing dominance of turbocharged
engines, the naturally-aspirated,
Cosworth DFV-powered machine’s
front-line career stretched over four
seasons, from 1979 to the start of ’ 82.
Its record of success, and the manner
in which it was achieved, ensure that the
car has earned its classic status. But what
makes FW07 even more amazing is the
fact that it was in effect only the second
car built by a team whose eponymous
founder was once regarded as something
of a joke by his F1 rivals.
Frank Williams had first entered F1 with
a privateer Brabham in 1969. In the early
’70s, the wheeler-dealing Brit ran his own
cars, juggling sponsors and pay drivers
and living hand to mouth, sometimes
operating from a payphone after the one
in his factory had been cut off.
In 1976 he seemed to have found a
sugar daddy when he hooked up with
Canadian oil-drilling equipment magnate
Walter Wolf. However, by year’s end, he’d
been sidelined within the team he’d
founded and quit to start afresh. After eight
years as an F1 entrant he departed with
nothing…apart from the commitment of
an ex-Lola engineer named Patrick Head,
who preferred to go with Frank rather than
remain with the new Wolf Racing set-up.
They ran a March for Patrick Neve in
1977 under the Williams Grand Prix
Engineering name, but Frank had bigger
ambitions. For ’ 78, Head designed the
neat and effective Williams FW06, in
which tough Aussie Alan Jones – another
man at something of a crossroads in his
career – hounded the dominant Lotus 79s
Patrick Head just wanted to
build a better Lotus 79. But
with the Williams FW07, he
created the greatest car of
Formula 1’s ground-effect era.
Alan Jones’ Williams
FW07B leads Nelson
BT49 in the 1980
British Grand Prix.
Jones won the race,
then went on to take
that year’s Formula 1
as an F1 powerhouse.