|Designer(s)||Patrick Head (Technical Director)
Enrique Scalabroni (Chief Designer)
|Chassis||Carbon fibre and honeycomb composite monocoque|
|Suspension (front)||Double wishbone, pullrod|
|Suspension (rear)||Double wishbone, pullrod|
|Engine||1988: mid-engine, longitudinally mounted, 3,496 cc (213.3 cu in), Judd CV, 76° V8, NA
1989:mid-engine, longitudinally mounted, 3,493 cc (213.2 cu in), Renault RS1, 67° V10, NA
|Transmission||Williams 6 speed manual|
|Notable entrants||Canon Williams Team|
|Notable drivers||5. Nigel Mansell
5. Martin Brundle
5. Jean-Louis Schlesser
5. Thierry Boutsen
6. Riccardo Patrese
|Debut||1988 Brazilian Grand Prix|
The Williams FW12 was a Formula One racing car used by the Williams team for the 1988 season. An updated version, the FW12C, was used for 12 of the 16 races of the 1989 season. The FW12 was Williams first Naturally aspirated car since the FW08C used in the 1983 season.
In its original guise the car featured a Judd CV 3.5 V8. In 1988 the car was unsuccessful for Williams after two years of domination with the FW12's predecessor, the FW11, through use of the Honda turbo (Honda had moved to McLaren in 1988, despite having a year to run on their contract with Williams). Early in the season the car was described by Nigel Mansell as being pathetically slow in a straight line. That along with trouble from the reactive suspension system saw only one point scored before the mid-season British Grand Prix, when Riccardo Patrese finished 6th in Monaco.
Williams had debuted their own version of the computer controlled "active suspension" on the FW11 at the 1987 Italian Grand Prix, with Nelson Piquet taking victory in the systems debut (it was called "reactive" by the team as Lotus had the copyright on the "active" name in F1). Williams made revisions to the system in the off-season, deciding to it on the FW12 with the hope it would be an advantage over the other 'atmos' and put it on a more equal footing with the more powerful turbo cars. Unfortunately though, the revisions had a detrimental affect. The main problem encountered by the team was that air was getting into the hydraulics and messing up the computerised settings making the FW12's handling unpredictable, with both Mansell and Patrese pointing out on numerous occasions that the suspension settings were changing from lap to lap, and sometimes from corner to corner. The onboard computer needed to run the system also drew power from the cars engine to run properly. This was ok when the team started using the system as they had use of Honda's 1,000 bhp (746 kW; 1,014 PS) V6 turbo. In 1988 though, the Judd V8, in its first year of F1 competition, was only developing some 600 bhp (447 kW; 608 PS), which resulted in the car being sluggish, and accounted for its lack of straight line speed.
It was at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix that Williams Technical Director Patrick Head decided to dump the reactive suspension system for a more conventional one (a process that he had previously stated could not be done without a great deal of development and work, but the situation was desperate as Mansell had finished the first qualifying session 13th while Patrese was 30th, some 14 seconds slower than 26th). Overnight after Friday qualifying until Saturday morning the team worked tirelessly to convert the cars. While Head admitted it was a botch job done on the fly and would have to be re-worked later, both Mansell and Patrese expressed delight with the car, Mansell qualifying 11th while Patrese improved by 18 seconds to start 15th. The race was also a boost for Williams as Mansell drove his car in heavy rain to a hard fought 2nd place, his first points of the season, setting fastest lap along the way (one of only two 'atmo' fastest laps of the season). Head said in an interview on race morning that "Its a bodge frankly. We've put steel mechanical springs and dampers on. We've changed the front struts into dampers, designed some new bits and pieces which we machined up overnight. We did some new pistons for the front struts...it's a bit of a bodge as I said".
Mansell was forced to miss the Belgian and Italian races because of chickenpox and was substituted by Martin Brundle and Jean-Louis Schlesser consecutively. Schlesser, in what would be the only World Championship F1 race of his career, will forever be remembered for his drive at Monza, as it was his clash on lap 49 of 51 with race leader Ayrton Senna in the McLaren-Honda at the Variante de Rettifilio chicane which took Senna out of the race causing McLaren their only loss of the season and handing Ferrari an emotional 1-2 result (Gerhard Berger followed by Michele Alboreto), only a month after the death of Enzo Ferrari (Senna's team mate Alain Prost had retired on lap 34 with engine failure, the only engine failure of the season for the McLaren-Honda's).
The FW12 proved competitive for Williams in the last few races of the 1988 season. Despite both Mansell and Patrese retiring from the Portuguese Grand Prix, better was to come at the next race in Spain with Mansell finishing 2nd behind the McLaren of Alain Prost, while Patrese finished 5th (the race was also Mansell's 2nd and only point scoring race for the season). Mansell was then to retire from the last two races of the season in both Japan (accident with the Lotus of Nelson Piquet) and Australia (brake failure), ending his first run with the team after four seasons and 11 wins, while Partese would finish 6th and 4th in both races.
After winning the Formula One Constructors championships in both 1986 and 1987 and the Drivers' Championship with Piquet in 1987, Williams dropped to 7th in the standings in 1988, scoring only 20 points for the season in a year when the Honda powered McLaren MP4/4's of 1988 World Champion Ayrton Senna and his team mate, dual World Champion Alain Prost, won 15 of the season's 16 races in the single most dominating season in Formula One history.
During the 1988 season, Williams worked with their new engine supplier Renault to develop their new the RS1 3.5 V10 engine. Williams designed a test mule for the engine named FW12B, very much like the Judd-powered car Williams used for the 1988 season except the mule was designed to accommodate the extra length of a V10 engine and not a V8 like the race cars used. For the 1989 season the Renault V10 engine was used. This was the first Renault powered Williams F1 car and also saw Renault's re-entry into Formula One after stopping the supply of their turbocharged engines following the 1986 season. The updated and revised FW12C showed its potential in the season opening Brazilian Grand Prix with Patrese qualifying 2nd and leading the race from the start in what was his 176th Grand Prix start. In his record breaking race, Patrese also set the fastest lap of the race before retiring in front of the pits with a broken harmonic balancer.
During this time the car scored its only win when Thierry Boutsen (who had replaced Mansell in the team) scored his first win at the rain affected Canadian Grand Prix, and with Patrese finishing second it was Williams' first 1-2 result since the 1987 Mexican Grand Prix. Patrese, who had his best season to date after consecutive 2nd place finishes in Mexico, Phoenix, Canada, followed by a 3rd in France, also scored the cars' only pole position at the Hungarian Grand Prix. He then comfortably led the race until lap 54 when a hole in the radiator caused the car to overheat into retirement.
By the time of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, it had become obvious that the limit of the FW12C had been reached, with the team starting to fall behind both McLaren, with their Honda V10 engine, and Ferrari with their V12. Williams, who had decided to continue with the car, preferring to get its successor, the FW13, right before making its race debut, decided after Italy, where Boutsen finished 3rd with Patrese 4th, that the FW12C would be retired and the new car introduced for Portugal. Patrese then preferred to go back to the FW12C for the Spanish Grand Prix, finishing 5th in the last Formula One race for the car.
Overall, the Judd and Renault powered Williams FW12 and FW12C scored 1 win, 1 pole position, 2 fastest laps and 9 podium finishes in its 29 races.
Complete Formula One results
(key) (results shown in bold indicate pole position; results in italics indicate fastest lap)
|1988||Williams FW12||Judd CV
|1989||Williams FW12C||Renault RS1
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