Williams FW18 - This car won the 5th double for the Grove-based team
The Williams FW18 was the 1996 Formula 1 World Championship winning car in both Drivers’ and Constructors’ championship.
Based on its predecessor
This car, designed by Chief Designer Adrian Newey and Technical Director Patrick Head was the successor of FW17 which scored five wins in the previous season but failed in an attempt to win the trophy. However, the FW18 was mostly based on its predecessor with just a couple of modifications.
Probably the most notable change was the car’s center of gravity that was lowered after driver’s seat was mounted lower in the cockpit. With the lower center of gravity and conventional but very effective aerodynamics package, the well-balanced car was easier to drive and was far ahead of the rest of the grid. The Renault engine used in the previous campaign was still powerful and good enough.
Drivers had a different set up
Damon Hill, a runner-up from the previous two years, remained the team’s main driver and was accompanied with Jacques Villeneuve, the son of legendary Gilles Villeneuve and the reigning CART Series champion who had spent over 9.000 km during pre-season because he wanted to prepare himself for the new challenge.
Interestingly, the two drivers had controls on their cars set up differently. Hill, who is pretty tall, probably for the first time in his career fitted well in the car and controls on his car were set in the usual way. However, for the young Canadian, some changes had to be done. The downshift paddles were mounted on the right side of the steering wheel, while the pedals were aligned to suit his left foot braking style.
Furious start of the season
The start of the season was brilliant. Rookie Villeneuve won the pole position and set the fastest lap in the season-opening race in Australia, but in the race, he had to settle for the 2nd place behind a more experienced teammate. That was only the second time in the history of Formula 1 that one car scored 1-2 finish on its debut.
Williams FW18’s winning streak continued in the next four races. Hill triumphed at Interlagos, Autodromo Oscar Alfredo Galvez, and at Imola, while Villeneuve scored his maiden F1 victory at Nurburgring and also scored the 2nd place finish in Argentina.
Short crisis and quick recovery
At that point of the season, Hill topped the standings, while Villeneuve was 2nd, 21 points behind his teammate. The Monaco Grand Prix was the next race on the calendar but it was a bad day for Williams team after both drivers retired from the race. Damon also retired from the Spanish Grand Prix but Villeneuve finished 3rd at Catalunya Circuit.
However, Williams bounced back in the next two races in Canada and France. Hill won both events, while Villeneuve was 2nd. British driver won the race at the home circuit of his teammate but Jacques took revenge by winning the race at Silverstone. Damon retired from the British Grand Prix but still had a comfortable 15 points lead to Villeneuve in the Drivers’ Championship. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, Williams was 60 points ahead to the 2nd-placed Benetton with six races remaining.
Hill clinched his only F1 title in the season-closing race
The final third of the season was pretty exciting. Hill won at Hockenheim, while Villeneuve was the winner at Hungaroring. The Canadian driver finished 2nd in Belgium, while the championship leader finished 5th in the race at Spa. However, with three races to go, he was still 13 points ahead of Villeneuve. The Italian Grand Prix was the second race of the campaign in which both drivers of Williams FW18 failed to score after Hill retired and Villeneuve was 7th.
The team scored another 1-2 finish in Portugal. Jacques won the race at Estoril and reduced a gap to Hill to nine points before the final race in Japan. Canadian driver won the pole position for the race at Suzuka but had a poor start and later retired from the race after his right rear wheel came off. Hill won the race and in great style secured the title.
Williams team clinched the Manufacturers’ title much earlier. At the end of the campaign British team was 105 points clear to the 2nd placed Ferrari which proved that Williams FW18 was one of the most dominant cars of 1990s Formula 1.
What do the numbers say?
The Williams FW18 in 1996 Formula 1 World Championship won 12 out 16 races – Hill 8, Villeneuve 4. The team also scored 12 pole positions (Hill 9, Villeneuve 3) and 11 fastest laps (Hill 5, Villeneuve 6). This amazing car recorded podium finishes and amassed a total of 175 points.
Video – Damon Hill in Williams FW18 at Goodwood
Williams FW18 technical specifications
|Chassis||Carbon/Epoxy composite monocoque|
|Front track||1.670 mm|
|Rear track||1.600 mm|
|Engine||Renault RS8/RS8B, 3.000 cc V10, naturally aspirated, mid-mounted|
|Suspension||Inboard torsion bars operated by pushrod bellcrank, unequal length wishbones|
|Power||750 bhp / 560 KW at 14.500 rpm|
|Gearbox||Williams 6-speed semi-automatic|
|Brakes||Ventilated carbon ceramic discs, all-round|