Former championship contender Williams will be making yet another shift in their engine supply, this time moving over to Mercedes for the 2014 season. This will mark the fifth change in engines for Sir Frank Williams’ team in just the last eight years.
Williams has not partnered with an engine manufacturer for longer than three years since they were powered by BMW’s powerplant back at the beginning of the century.
There is a connection with Mercedes as Toto Wolff, who used to work for Williams, moved over to Mercedes this year. Wolff still has a minority ownership in the Williams team, while Frank Williams maintains a majority stake in the operation.
The 2014 Formula One season will see a completely new engine design for all the competitors with a 1.6 liter V6 turbocharged engine including more hybrid type regenerative abilities. Regardless of the manufacturer, the engines are to produce more torque, burn less fuel and the new energy recovery system (ERS) will retain 10 times the amount than the current KERS.
The addition of Williams will give Mercedes eight cars on the starting grid powered by their engines in 2014. McLaren will drop Mercedes for the 2015 season with their new partnership involving the return of Honda to F1.
During the ‘90s, Williams dominated the series, winning five Constructors championships along with four driver’s titles. However, the relatively recent musical chairs of engine swapping has not worked well for Williams who hasn’t had a Constructors championship over the past 16 years of competition. Here’s a look back at the last five engine collaborations for Williams.
Additional sources: Formula One
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The Mecachrome, Supertec, Renault engines – or whatever they called them at the time – had not performed well for Williams. BMW had decided they wanted to return to F1 and came out with a 3 liter V10 for the 2000 season. BMW and Williams agreed to a six-year contract and had relatively good success to start with, but by 2004, performance had dropped. Whether due to driver changes, chassis’ or engines, the partnership between BWW and Williams fell apart in 2005.
In 2006, Williams decided to switch to a V8 powered Cosworth, who also produced V10s in F1. The season did not go well as breakdowns were constant. Blame was thrown everywhere, from the fact the team had changed tire manufacturer to sponsorship problems to driver changes, the short-lived partnership dissolved quickly. For the first time in team history, Williams’ drivers had failed to earn a podium the entire year. With the team performing at its worse level in three decades, this one-year venture ended.
Having debuted in F1 five years earlier, Toyota had arguable success as an engine supplier with a runner-up in 2005. Williams and Toyota joined up for what would be a three year partnership starting in 2007. The team improved from its disappointing year with Cosworth, but possibly due to a chassis change, the team reversed their fortunes, dropping significantly in the Constructors championship. Frank Williams was starting to regret some of his decisions in recent years and then to complicate matters, due to the worldwide Great Recession, Toyota withdrew from F1 after the 2009 season.
Williams had to scramble after the loss of Toyota and decided to go back to Cosworth in 2010. Cosworth was still producing the same engine Williams had done so poorly with in ’06; but, the team did somewhat better and actually out-performed the other three constructors teams using Cosworth. However, 2011 was a total disaster as the Williams team became a regular backmarker during races. Frank Williams had enough and made another change.
Once again, going back to a familiar engine supplier, Williams reunited last season with Renault who had been powering the championship Red Bull team along with a resurgent Lotus. Now a team just scrambling for any points they could get, Williams has had little success with Renault. Although Red Bull and Lotus are battling for Constructor titles with Renault powerplants in 2013, Williams has continued to struggle near the bottom of the standings. As stated in the main article, Renault will partner with Mercedes for the 2014 season.