Ranking the Top 10 Williams Drivers of All Time
The Williams F1 team recently celebrated its 600th Grand Prix start when they took part in the German Grand Prix.
The famous privateer team has a rich tradition and history, boasting no fewer than nine constructors’ titles and seven drivers’ titles but has recently endured a fallow period aside from Pastor Maldonado’s Spanish Grand Prix victory in 2012.
However, we prefer to remember the good times and the team has created some of the greatest drivers in Formula One history. Here’s my top 10:
10. Clay Regazzoni
Clay Regazzoni simply has to make this list as he delivered the team’s first ever victory at the 1979 British Grand Prix only two years after the team was founded.
The Swiss driver finished a dominant 25 seconds ahead of René Arnoux’s Renault.
Regazzoni went on to finish fifth in the drivers’ standings before being replaced by Carlos Reutemann. Sadly, Regazzoni was left paralyzed from the waist down after an accident in the 1980 US Grand Prix, and he died in a car accident in Italy in 2006.
9. Juan Pablo Montoya
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A surprise choice you may think but the 1999 CART champion enjoyed four productive seasons with Williams from 2001-2004, winning on four occasions.
Montoya grabbed a debut win in F1 at the 2001 Italian Grand Prix but it was in 2003 when he enjoyed his most productive year by taking the fight to Michael Schumacher.
Victories at Monaco and Germany turned him into a title contender before Ferrari returned to form. His final victory for Williams came in his last race for the team at the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix.
8. Carlos Reutemann
Nicknamed ‘Lole’, Argentine driver Reutemann raced for Williams from1980-82 and won three races for the team.
His first victory came in the 1980 Monaco Grand Prix, but he had to play second fiddle to Alan Jones and their relationship soured when Reutemann refused to obey team orders in order to let Jones win the 1981 Brazilian Grand Prix.
He would win once more in Belgium en route to second place in the drivers’ standings.
7. Keke Rosberg
When Finn Rosberg joined the Williams team for the 1982 season he had, incredibly, not scored a single championship point.
But in 1982, consistency was the key to his world championship-winning season as he won once and finished on the podium five times to end the season five points ahead of Didier Pironi and John Watson.
6. Jacques Villeneuve
Son of legendary F1 driver Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques achieved what his father didn’t by winning the world title for Williams in 1997 after a dramatic conclusion to the season.
Going into the final round of the season at the Circuito de Jerez, Michael Schumacher led the Canadian by a single point and on Lap 48, Schumacher turned into Villeneuve in an apparent attempt to take him out of the race.
But the tactic backfired, and Villeneuve went on to finish third which proved enough for the title as Schumacher was later disqualified for his action. Villeneuve won seven races en route to the title and four in his debut season in 1996.
5. Alan Jones
In winning the 1980 drivers’ title, Australian Alan Jones became the first of seven drivers to win the world drivers’ title, taking five victories in the process.
His victories were also instrumental in landing Williams its first constructors’ championship, the team notching 120 points – almost twice as many as second placed Ligier.
4. Damon Hill
Son of double world champion Graham, Damon followed in his father’s footsteps by winning the 1996 world championship from teammate Jacques Villeneuve.
Hill won three races on the bounce in his debut season for Williams in 1993 but was beaten to the title by teammate Alain Prost.
After Prost’s retirement, Hill was joined by the legendary Ayrton Senna in 1994, and he took the fight to Michael Schumacher following his teammate’s tragic death at Imola. It looked like Hill would win the title in Adelaide after Schumacher tried to take him out of the race but a broken wishbone ended his dreams. But two years later Hill was champion, winning the final race of the season in Japan as Villeneuve retired.
3. Alain Prost
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Prost was already a three-time world champion when he joined Williams in 1993 and he cantered to the title in the dominant FW15C, winning seven times to finish 26 points ahead of his long-time rival Ayrton Senna.
Williams also successfully defended their constructors’ title, 84 points ahead of McLaren.
2. Nelson Piquet
Brazilian Piquet joined the Williams team as a two time world champion in 1986 and won four races en route to third place behind teammate Nigel Mansell.
The following season provided a titanic battle between the Williams teammates, and although Mansell took six wins to Piquet’s three, the Brazilian proved the more consistent driver.
The battle came to an end in Japan when Mansell crashed heavily in practice, putting him out of the final two races.
1. Nigel Mansell
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When I think of Williams, I think of Nigel Mansell.
The lion-hearted Brit looked destined to be forever the bridesmaid after coming close to winning the title in 1986 and 1987, but a year after rejoining the team from Ferrari he realised his dreams by dominating the 1992 championship, winning nine races en route to the title.
In doing so, he became Britain’s most successful driver of all time surpassing Jackie Stewart’s tally of 27 wins. He signed off his Williams career with victory in the 1994 Australian Grand Prix.