Struggling Williams F1 is Up For Sale, But The Decline Began in 1996
It was 1996 and Williams F1 had the formula one world championship routed and wrapped up. Damon Hill notched up 8 victories and rookie teammate Jacques Villeneuve bagged 4 wins. It was a year of total and utter performance dominance from a team that appeared to be unbeatable for perhaps eternity. Jacques Villeneuve would go on to win the 1997 drivers championship earning another seven victories. At that point, Williams F1 had scored 103 races, having entered Formula 1 in 1975. And it’s a team that has been in decline ever since. Over the following 23 years, Williams F1 has added just 11 race victories. They haven’t won a race since 2012.
The Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 has exposed a company in a fragile state. But the decline began in 1996 when Williams had the best car, the best engineers and a driver in Damon Hill who was vastly underrated by the very team he drove for. Like many drivers Hill had his ups and downs, he started his 4-wheel motorsport career later than most. But he was a classy enough driver to secure a world championship title.
But Williams wasn’t satisfied and during the 1996 F1 campaign announced it would dump Hill at the end of the season in favor of Heinz Harold Frentzen. The German was seen as an up and coming driver, one who had the natural-born speed to take on Michael Schumacher. In Damon Hill, Williams threw away a driver who had delivered both a driver’s and constructor’s trophy. And to rub salt into the wound, Frentzen failed to deliver on every front.
As a young formula 1 kid-fan, I never forgave Williams for sacking Damon Hill. It felt like the ultimate betrayal. And now I have no sympathy for Williams F1 at all, they were ruthless fair play to them. They did what they needed to do to survive the sport. And they have been just as ruthless again by putting the team up for sale. For the Williams family, it is the only logical route to take.
So goodbye Williams, you had your time in the sport, you did great things and achieved much. But personally speaking, I won’t be sorry at all to see the Williams name and brand disappear. In Formula One many teams have come and gone, great teams, small teams and Williams F1 is just another casualty.