Williams FW11 and FW11B, a car capable of winning three world titles

2021-03-20 23:00

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Williams FW11 and FW11B, a car capable of winning three world titles

The Williams FW11 represents one of the most successful cars in the history of Formula 1, and four years later brings back both the drivers 'and the c


The Williams FW11 represents one of the most successful cars in the history of Formula 1, and four years later brings back both the drivers 'and the constructors' titles to the Grove team founded by Sir Frank Williams.


The car proved to be far superior to its competitors right from the start, although the team blatantly failed to win the drivers' title in the 1986 season, which has been missing from the English team's palmarés since 1982, when the Finnish Keke Rosberg surprisingly wins it.


Thanks to the superiority of the car and the duo of drivers made up of the English Lion Nigel Mansell, and the talented Nelson Piquet, there is no problem for the Grove team in winning the Constructors' title.


Compared to the model that preceded it, the FW11 presents itself to the opposing teams as a completely new and very innovative car; in fact, the Williams FW10 retained the same setting as the 1984 Williams FW09, as the latter in the few races it finished, proved to have a good level of competitiveness, at the same time denouncing serious problems of unreliability. This was due, in particular, to the new Honda engine that made its debut three years earlier on British cars, and which still was not able to finish the races as it was still too frail.


In the three years following the debut, the English team takes the time to develop the new turbo technology of the Japanese engines. At the same time, Honda reaches an excellent compromise between reliability and performance with its RA 166E biturbo, and Williams engineers decide to direct all the work towards a car that cares more about the substance than the personality of the vehicle.


The result is a decidedly more conventional car than its predecessors, without looking for performance at any cost. Soon, this choice turns out to be a winner, and withdrawals decrease dramatically.


However, from time to time, some components still suffer from breakages, not so much because it was not well sized, but because the team has two very hard drivers in their driving, namely the British Nigel Mansell and the newcomer, the two-time Champion. of the Nelson Piquet World.


The FW11 therefore reserves a very simple aerodynamic setting, which makes it very functional, and compared to the previous Williams has less taut lines and much softer and more rounded, a factor that allows you to better cut the air, which now collides in less abrupt way against the bodywork. This obviously guarantees not only high cornering speeds for the car, but also stability and particularly high top speeds on the straight.


As required by the regulations, the engine has a displacement of 1.500 cm³ supercharged by two turbochargers, and characterized by six cylinders with V-banks inclined by sixty degrees with a total of 800 horsepower, with a maximum rotation of 12.000 rpm.


This, on the tracks of the world championship, proves to be powerful, reliable, but above all decidedly more elastic: in fact, in addition to being fragile, the old problem of this engine is represented by its inability to deliver power in a homogeneous way, as it suffers problems of turbo-lag, and sometimes even at high revs it shows operating holes not offering high thrusts.




The Williams FW11B is a close evolution of its sister FW11, developed to be able to compete in the Formula 1 World Championship in 1987. The new model is very similar to the car used the previous year, except for the name which differs from that of the old Williams FW11 only for the initials.


This choice depends on various factors, but one of the most important is undoubtedly the fact that the car proved extremely competitive, winning nine Grands Prix the previous year.


Conceptually, the Williams FW11B does not differ much from its ancestor, despite present small differences: in fact, the designers Patrick Head and Frank Dernie improve the engine cooling system, which on some occasions during the past season had caused some retirements, designing larger slots for the thermal disposal of the radiators.


At the same time, to improve the grip of the front end, a front wing with oversized side panels is used, in order to increase the downforce coefficient. In addition, research continues to make the most of the Venturi effect in the lower part of the body, an area characterized by a new flat bottom design, and a groove under the side bellies.


Meanwhile Honda is working to improve the twin-turbo V6, which now consumes less while maintaining fairly high-power levels, despite the introduction of new technical restrictions on the engines.


1986 season


In the inaugural race in Brazil, Nigel Mansell gets the second place on the starting grid, followed by Piquet: the two Williams monopolize the entire race, and the only one who can keep up with him is Ayrton Senna with Lotus, who wins the pole. position.

However, not even he is able to do much and only because of a collision by Mansell, which forces the Englishman to retire, he closes in second place, while his compatriot Nelson Piquet wins the victory.


In the second race in Spain it is Piquet who retires due to an overheating, while his teammate struggles until the last lap with Senna, contenting himself with the second position.


In the following Grand Prix, Alain Prost took his first victory of the season, aboard a McLaren, which uses a deeply revised 1984 car from the 1984 season; despite the old car, Prost won another three Grands Prix and, above all, he retired only three times during the entire championship.


Thanks to his car, obsolete compared to the Williams, but tested and more reliable, the French driver manages to finish more races than his rivals, collecting many precious points thanks also to his character as a professor and calculator, while the Mansell-Piquet duo scrambles the car to win in any way.


As for the pole positons, Williams wins two with Mansell and two with Piquet, as it is impossible in qualifying to keep pace with Senna and Lotus, which together won eight out of sixteen. In the race, however, Williams turns out to be the most successful team thanks to Mansell's five successes in the Grand Prix of Belgium, France, Canada, Great Britain and Portugal, while Piquet triumphs in Brazil, Germany, Holland and Italy.


As mentioned, however, these results are not enough to win against Prost's consistency.

In fact, the classification, before the last race in Australia, sees Mansell first with seventy points, followed by Piquet at sixty-three ex aequo with Prost, while all the other drivers do not have enough points to challenge the aforementioned triad.


The underdogs are for Williams, as Prost, to become World Champion, must finish ahead of Piquet, and Mansell should finish the race without collecting points, or retiring.

And this is exactly what happens: in Adelaide Mansell he retires due to a blowout of a tire, and Prost arrives in front of Piquet and winning the race, mocking both the English and the Brazilian, who could have taken advantage of the exit. of his partner, but failing to overtake the French.


Despite the defeat in the drivers 'championship, Williams wins the constructors' championship with 141 points against McLaren's 96, thanks to the nine victories and ten podiums obtained by its drivers, four of which obtained by the English driver, with two second places in Spain. and Italy and two third places in Germany and Hungary, and eight conquered by Piquet, with three second places in San Marino, Great Britain and Australia and three third places in Canada, France and Portugal, making the team owners Frank happy and satisfied. Williams and Patrick Head.


1987 season


The decision to keep the car almost totally unchanged proves to be a winner once again for the Grove team: the British car is far superior to all the others, leaving the rivals with little margin of victory. Of the sixteen races scheduled, Williams wins nine, while the remaining six are shared between McLaren, Lotus and Ferrari, which can only fight for second place, given the hegemony of Sir Frank Williams' team.


A frightening fact is what concerns the pole positions; if in 1986 almost all of them were conquered by Ayrton Senna and his Lotus, which in qualifying was extremely competitive, in 1987 Williams, with a car practically one year older than the competition, won twelve out of sixteen and both Nigel Mansell that Nelson Piquet is extremely regular even in the race, to the point that thanks to four braces they increase the advantage in the constructors' classification to the maximum.


Piquet in particular proves to be very constant, retiring only on three occasions and scoring points twelve times, climbing eleven times on the podium, while Mansell does not finish as many races as his teammate, due to accidents and retirements related to technical issues, but winning more races compared to the Brazilian champion.


Precisely for this reason the Briton fails to win the title, which Piquet won instead, also due to Mansell's failure to participate in the penultimate Grand Prix in Japan, due to a terrible accident during free practice, while Williams wins the constructors' championship for the second consecutive year.


In 1987 the British team won three victories with Piquet in Germany, Hungary and Italy, and six victories with Mansell in the Grand Prix of San Marino, France, Great Britain, Austria, Spain and Mexico, as well as conquering eight podiums with Piquet, of which seven second places in Brazil, Monaco, United States East, France, Great Britain, Austria and Mexico, and a third place in Portugal, while Mansell only gets a third place on the Estoril circuit.


A third specification is made of the FW11, distinct from the letter C for the 1988 world championship, which will however only be used in private practice and test sessions. The Williams FW11 closes its glorious history in 1988 after taking a total of three world titles, eighteen victories, thirty-seven podiums, sixteen pole positions and eighteen fastest laps.


Andrea Rasponi

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