Williams’ first F1-winning car leads Classic at Silverstone tribute to Sir Frank
The first Williams car to win a grand prix will take centre stage in a tribute to Sir Frank Williams at this summer’s Classic at Silverstone.
Clay Regazzoni drove the same FW07 to victory at the circuit in the 1979 British Grand Prix, the first in the glittering history of a team that has so far won 114 Formula 1 races, nine constructors’ championships and seven drivers’ titles.
The car will return to the scene of its triumph over the August Bank Holiday weekend, where the Classic at Silverstone is commemorating one of Formula 1’s greatest team principals, following his death last November.
The FW07 will be on display in the paddock while other examples of the car, which won another four grands prix in 1979 and went on to win the 1980 title in FW07B guise, will be racing in the Frank Williams Memorial Trophy for Masters Racing Legends. The race will feature 1966-1985 3-litre grand prix cars.
“For so many reasons Silverstone was very, very special to our father and thus we, as a family, welcome the very fitting celebrations of Dad’s extraordinary life being planned at The Classic,” said Sir Frank’s children in a statement.
“Memories of him at Silverstone always epitomise both his spirit and the unwavering passion he had for F1 and, we’re sure, a little bit of that passion will now live on at The Classic.”
Owned by Williams Heritage, Regazzoni’s race-winning FW07 was also on display at the Royal Automobile Club earlier this month, at the reception that followed Sir Frank’s memorial service. As the car which marked the start of the team’s winning ways, it was also part of the photoshoot to celebrate the Williams team’s 40th birthday in 2017.
Sir Frank ran his first Formula 1 car in 1969 but lost his team to majority shareholder Walter Wolf and started afresh in 1977. Partnering with a young Patrick Head, and with Ross Brawn on the payroll, the fledgling Williams Grand Prix Engineering produced its first chassis in 1978: the FW06.
A year later came the FW07, which improved on Lotus’s ground-effect concept with stiff sidepods and skirts that could resist the huge forces involved. It would be Williams’ ticket to grand prix glory.
The 1979 British GP (results, right) was a weekend of many firsts for Williams with Alan Jones getting the team’s maiden pole position in qualifying. The next day, however, it was his team-mate Clay Regazzoni who stood on the top step after the future world champion retired with an engine problem.
After the Silverstone win, Alan Jones won the next three races, as well as a fourth before the end of the season. In the developed FW07B, he went on to win Williams’ first drivers’ and constructors’ titles in 1980. A further upgraded FW07C won a second constructors’ championship in 1981.
Frank Dernie, who worked in Research and Development for Williams at the time, recalled the making of the FW07 in an exclusive interview with Motor Sport.
“We had about six weeks a year development time at the Imperial College wind tunnel,” he said in 2004.