Formula One - On And Off Track Week 28

Formula One - On And Off Track Week 28

By: Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent

Story Highlights

  • Williams and Renault reunited
  • Villeneuve bored with Formula One
  • A new 2014 Formula One engine sound

Williams and Renault reunited

Williams announced this week they will be running Renault engines in 2012 again, another announcement that makes it clear Williams wants to fight back and leave the so far disastrous 2011 season far behind them. Recently they already announced a complete reshuffling of their technical team, and the deal with Renault is another step forwards that should revive the team to its former glory.

Jacques Villeneuve 1997 World Champion
Jacques Villeneuve 1997 World Champion

The Grove-based team hasn’t won a race since 2004 when Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya won the Brazilian Grand Prix, and Jacques Villeneuve was the last driver to win the Drivers’ Championship in 1997. That same year was also the last time Williams won the Constructors’ Championship. Altogether Williams have won nine constructors’ titles and seven drivers’ titles.

Williams made their official Grand Prix debut in 1978, with Australian Alan Jones behind the wheel of the FW 06 powered by the good old Ford Cosworth DFV V8 engine. At the time, Jones was a relatively unknown driver, but Williams won both championships in 1980 with Jones after just three full seasons in Formula One. But thanks to Renault, the turbo era in Formula One arrived, and like many other teams, Williams switched to a Honda turbo charged engine in 1983, but after turbo changed engines were banned by the FIA, Williams turned to the Renault V10 engine in 1989.

From that moment on the Williams-Renault success story really took off, after landing second place in the Constructors’ Championship in 1989 and 1991, they won the title in 1992, 1993,1994, became second in 1995, and won the title again in 1996 and 1997, thus Williams and Renault completely dominated Formula One from 1989 until 1997. Williams and Renault won 63 Grands Prix between 1989 and 1997 and four drivers' and five constructors' titles.

Frank Williams also hired the best drivers around in those days: Thierry Boutsen, Riccardo Patrese, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, David Coulthard, Villeneuve, and the most famous of all: Ayrton Senna. After an eleven-year drought Mansell won the drivers’ title in his Williams in 1992 after winning nine of the 16 races, but the flamboyant Briton took off to the United States to pursue a career in the CART Series and signed a contract with Newman/Haas Racing.

Prost joined Williams in 1993, and won his fifth World Championship in the state-of-the-art Williams FW 15C with its computer-guided active suspension after winning 7 races, while his team colleague Hill won three races that season. Prost decided to retire at the end of 1993, which paved the way for Senna to join the Williams team in 1994.

Alain Prost won his fifth title in a Williams
Alain Prost won his fifth title in a Williams

Sir Frank had already tried to hire the Brazilian before and had high expectations ahead of the 1994 season, but as it turned out, despite they once again won the Constructors’ Championship that year, 1994 became in fact the blackest season for Williams and Formula One. The active suspension was banned at the end of 1993, and Senna was left with a car that was stripped of its electronics and retired from the first three races of the season, and died after his crash at Imola on May 1. Williams was hunted by the Italian authorities for almost ten years for manslaughter, as they believed Patrick Head and Williams were responsible for his death.

Hill won the driver’s title in 1996, and Williams won their eighth constructors’ title, still with the Renault engine powering the Williams. That same year they hired Villeneuve, again a good choice, as the son of the legendary Gilles Villeneuve led Williams to their ninth and last constructors’ title in 1997, while the Canadian himself won the drivers’ title.

But in 1998 Renault decided to withdraw from Formula One, and for the first time in nine years Williams had no Renault engine. They instead turned to the Mecachrome V10 engine, which was in fact a Renault Formula One engine prepared by the French Mechachrome engineering company. In 1999 Williams had the Supertec engine, which was again an engine designed by Renault, but built by Mechachrome, and rebadged as Supertec engine.

Renault’s history in Formula One is also a success story, in 1977 the French company entered the sport with a 1.5 liter turbo charged engine, which ultimately led to the Formula One turbo era, an era with exceptional powerful engines, as some of them delivered an amazing 1200 bph. Too much power to the likings of the FIA, who subsequently banned turbo charged engines in 1989.

Fernando Alonso took his second title in 2006
Fernando Alonso took his second title in 2006

Photo by:

Renault returned to the circuits after purchasing the Benetton team, and driver Fernando Alonso went on to win the 2005 and 2006 championship with the Renault R25 and R26 powered by a Renault RS26 2.4 V8 engine. They continued to supply Formula One customer engines in 2011 to Red Bull, Lotus Renault end Team Lotus.

According to the announcement, Williams will get the same engine as Red Bull next year. Team principal Frank Williams, “Our previous relationship with Renault was one of the most successful in Williams' history but we will not allow ourselves to dwell too much on the past.” And added, “We must look to the future and continue to re-build our on-track reputation, which I am hopeful that today's announcement will help us to do.”

But Williams also knows a good engine is only one part of the equation, “I remind myself that Formula One never stands still and what we used to achieve with Renault in the 90s is by no means a guarantee for what we can perhaps achieve in the future. We have ahead of us at Williams a steep mountain, it is quite possible to climb it and we will climb it. How long it will take is another matter but we are determined to deliver our side of the bargain.”

Jacques Villeneuve bored with Formula One

Ahead of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend, Villeneuve, who won the title in 1997, visited the Williams factory when his former employer announced the Renault engine deal. A new challenge for Williams, but Villeneuve revealed he is ‘done’ with Formula One. “I don't watch the races any more. I'm done, for the first time ever, I just can't be bothered. Halfway through the race I'm yawning and its really tough...and I just get upset,” he said during his visit at Williams’ headquarters at Grove, UK.

Jacques Villeneuve, former Formula One World Champion
Jacques Villeneuve, former Formula One World Champion

Photo by:

Villeneuve especially has problems with the DRS (drag reduction system or adjustable rear wing), designed to make overtaking easier. However, he’s not concerned about the lack of overtaking, but reckons overtaking using DRS is a meaningless exercise, “I really don't care to see overtaking with DRS. When I see these guys not even being able to defend, like Michael Schumacher, he should have been on the podium in Montreal,” he said.

”I don't understand why that thing is on an Formula One car right now. People now think 'Oh, he's going to overtake me. Why bother?' And that's it. No excitement. Nothing.”

So what does he like to see in Formula One? “I prefer to see Lewis going for it and sometimes it ends in tears but at least it's fun. All the other overtaking with the DRS, I'm just falling asleep...useless, boring, it's not even racing, he said to Reuters. And what about the stewards’ penalties? “If every time someone tries to do that there's a penalty, what's the point? You need to let the drivers go for it and if they bang wheels, too bad. It's fun, it's a good show, the fans are up in the grandstands and they can scream and shout about it...that's good, that's what you want.”

A new 2014 Formula One engine sound

FOTA, FIA and FOM, the three main Formula One players have reached an agreement on the new engine formula, which was originally scheduled to make its debut in 2013. Of all three parties, the FIA had to make the most concessions, they agreed to go from a V4 to a V6 configuration, and the teams now have the time to 2014 to develop the new engine.

Ferrari had been mordicus against the V4 concept, Renault and Mercedes weren’t happy with Ferrari’s demands, and the FOM wasn’t happy with the engine change to begin with, as they believe there is nothing wrong with the current V8 engines, and the FOTA feared the development of such a new V4 engine would cost too much money.

FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone several times admitted he was worried about the sound of the new engines, as he, and many fans, thinks that distinctive high-rev engine sound is one of the sport’s hallmarks. Ecclestone found an ally in Australian Ron Walker, the promoter of the Australian Grand Prix, who thought the originally proposed V4 engines would sound like ‘a tin can rattling’ and threatened to pull out of Formula One and instead stage an IndyCar race at Albert Park.

It was rumored 17 of the 19 race promoters agreed with Walker and had put pressure on the negotiations which ultimately led to the V6 engines, with the revs limited to 15,000 instead of 12,000 rpm. It will also have one turbo charger, and not two. Which basically means all six exhausts will be joined together and end in one single exhaust outlet at the back of the car, which according to the engine boffins, would produce a sound that can be compared with the high-pitch sound of today’s V8 engines.

The FIA is certain the engine sound will be worthy of Formula One, “The new architecture (V6) and the change in rev-limit, the engine will sound different, but will remain representative of Formula One.”

Luca di Montezemolo
Luca di Montezemolo

But now not only the sound of the engines has changed, also the sound of the comments of the sport’s pundits has changed. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo commented, “The choice of a V6 turbo engine after 2014 is right and I'm glad that common sense prevailed. It shows that we are working together. When you don't stick your foot down in a ridiculous way you can achieve a lot in this sport.”

Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn, “One of the exciting things in the future is the fact that the engine is going to come back into the equation. At the moment they’ve been sterilized in a way. They are all very similar, they’ve all been homologated and no-one really talks about the engines anymore.” And he is already looking forward to 2014, “There is a lot of exciting technology coming through with the new engine in 2014 and I’m really excited that engines are coming back into the equation and they’re not just a space filler between the chassis and the gearbox.”

Technical Director of Lotus Renault GP, James Alllsion is especially happy with the environmental issues that are addressed with the new 2014 regulations, “The 2014 engine is already moving in a direction that recognizes the way in which the world is going. Fuel is becoming increasingly expensive, at some point the world will reach peak oil production and then decline from there. The 2014 engine is all about recognizing those realities and we will have electric energy in the car in quite large measures.”

Force India Deputy Team Principal Bob Fernley about the new engines, “This is the right direction. It’s very relevant for the motor manufacturers and we have to look at being aligned with our partners in this and being able to get the benefit through to the public as a whole.”

Bernie Ecclestone and Ron Walker, Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman
Bernie Ecclestone and Ron Walker, Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman

Photo by:

McLaren’s Paddy Lowe, “I think the high-speed V6 turbo sounds exciting, it's a unique engine package actually, I don't think there's ever been that particular formula or that solution seen in motor racing.” About Walkers threat to go to IndyCar he said, “I have seen various threats about running IndyCars instead which seems somewhat ironic because I don't think the IndyCar engine is particularly loud or particularly high-revving, I think it's a 12,000rpm engine. So I think it's a slightly odd threat, but we have to respect the circuit owners.”

But Ecclestone and the circuits are apparently still not happy with the new V6 engine, and have threatened to sue the FIA over the 2014 engine rules. “These (new) engines will take away what people want when they go to Formula One races -- the glamour and the noise -- and therefore they won't be able to sell the tickets and they won't be able to pay us,” the 80-year old boss said. “They have got a contract with me and if they can't honor it, because they aren't selling any tickets, I probably wouldn't hold them to it,” he added.

Ecclestone also remarked the new engine regulations are breaching the contract he has with the governing body, and added he ‘might have to sue the FIA.’

Join us again next week for another episode of “Formula One: On and off track”

Formula One - On and Off Track week 27

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Team Lotus , Force India , Williams
Tags ecclestone, engines, renault, villeneuve, williams