RACERS JUST LIKE US
FROM 2012 WILLIAMS IS RENEWING ITS LINKS WITH RENAULT, with whom we had a very successful working relationship between 1989 and ’97. The main reason for making the change has been looking towards 2014, when the new V6 turbo engine arrives. I don’t expect that the change will have a major influence upon our competitive position in 2012 that will have to come from a beffer car from ourselves but our engineers will know that they have a winning engine in the back! Renault have good people at Viry-Chatillon they are racers, and their work ethic, their approach to racing, is as good as it always was.
Some were surprised when we first partnered Renault in 1988 for ’89, as Williams was always seen as a British team racing against the French. When we were first competing for championships, with Alan Jones driving, it was against Ligier and the Renault turbo cars, and Alan liked to make the baffle personal, hoping it might wind them up a bit and destabilise them. He wasn’t shy in taking the competition beyond the track, but there was humour in it. Frank himself has always had a very international view, and had mostly run non-UK drivers and been funded from overseas.
After the period with Honda with the 1.5-litre turbo V6, which ended when they offered us a clear number two team position for 1988, we had a year with the 3.5-litre Judd engine a decent unit, but not a very successful year for us. We were then approached by Renault who were coming back to Fl with the normally aspirated V10. I really liked Bernard Dudot and his engineers they had run their own team, so had good knowledge of the challenges facing the whole team. It was a very well-balanced partnership with a lot of respect on both sides. Renault liked the DNA of Williams minimal politics, total commitment to engineering and results, minimal bullshit and both of us were competitors wanting titles. There was no feeling of ‘them and us’, and in all my time in Flit was the best integration
between team and engine supplier. Renault was focused on the engine’s driveability and they understood that a useable power curve was more important than top-end power alone. Their quality assurance was good, lots of nice engineering, and the only big problems in 1989 came from the belt-driven camshafts.
At Rio de Janeiro that year Riccardo Patrese had set his fastest time in practice in FW12C when a bolt on one of the many pulleys at the front of the engine came undone. In he came and we replaced the engine in about 35 minutes. He went out and qualified second to Ayrton Senna and led the first 15 laps of the race. Thierry Boutsen won two races in that first year, with FW12C in Canada and with FW13 in Australia.
The FW13 was not the step forward we needed, and it was clear to me that we had to have a beffer car if our Renault partnership was to result in championships. At the Mexican GP in June the Leyton House cars had failed to qualify, and their designer found himself tending his garden as result, so I gave him a call. I didn’t know him well at all, but it was plain to me that he knew what he was doing in the aero department their car almost won the next GP so we had a chat and joined forces. It was Adrian Newey.
Adrian’s talent in aero, and general car layout, combined with Williams’ internal systems and engineering was just what we needed, and FW14 and the active-ride version for 1992, FW14B, placed Williams back at the front.
Renault were always understanding and supportive when we had the odd weakness, and ready to help out with engineering resources or capability. We worked preffy harmoniously, and took the wins and losses together as a team.
In 1994 they were very supportive when Ayrton was killed in one of our cars, a difficult time for many. I have nothing but good memories of our past relationship with Renault. For 2012 it is a new partnership, but it will have a solid foundation.