How Williams has become the force behind electric racing

The F1 team is languishing on the grid, but, as Damien Smith reports, its Advanced Engineering offshoot is the force behind electric racing – and will power the new LMDh endurance class

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There’s something binary about Williams in the modern world. In the unflinching glare of the Formula 1 spotlight, the race team is reduced to a sadly emaciated ‘big beast’ of the grid, a once-great entity now running around as a backmarker. But widen the circle of light and another Williams emerges – one that not only represents the best of what 21st century motor sport has to offer, but also considered among the greatest rising success stories of the past decade. As Williams Advanced Engineering, the company that Frank Williams and Patrick Head built from scratch in 1977 is in the best form of its life.

Name an innovative new motor sport series, class or category and more often than not the words ‘Williams’, ‘Advanced’ and ‘Engineering’ will pop up in the press release, presentation or news story. The company is seemingly everywhere, thanks to its burgeoning reputation as the go-to specialist in electrification, hybridisation and lightweight engineering. It’s not just sparking in the world of cars and racing either. Visit the company’s website and you’ll find a barrage of projects, from electric mining trucks to collaborations with BAE on battery development to make fast jets more efficient, and even an investment into eco-friendly valve technology for aerosol cans. Thriving barely covers it.

But naturally it’s the motor sport projects that catch our eye: WAE will supply the standardised batteries for the new LMDh endurance sports car class that everyone is talking about; it’s energising not only the Extreme E electric off-road series, but also the next-generation Formula E car for the gamechanging Gen3 era; and it’s also providing the charge for the future of touring car racing, in the form of Pure ETCR. A good time to catch up with the company, then, and discover more about what might well end up being Frank and Patrick’s most significant and influential legacy.