The Williams FW07 was a ground effect Formula One racing car designed by Patrick Head, Frank Dernie, and Neil Oatley for the 1979 F1 season. It was closely based on the Lotus 79, even being developed in the same wind tunnel at Imperial College London. Some observers, among them Lotus aerodynamicist Peter Wright felt the FW07 was little more than a re-engineered Lotus 79. The car was small and simple and extremely light, powered by the ubiquitous Ford Cosworth DFV. It had very clean lines and seemed to be a strong challenger for the new season, but early reliability problems halted any serious threat for the title. While not the first to use ground effects in Formula One, an honour belonging to Colin Chapman and the Lotus 78 (the Lotus 79's predecessor), Head may have had a better grasp of the principles than even Chapman. While Head had been developing the Lotus 78's/79's basic principles in the FW07, Chapman’s design team was attempting to take the ground effect idea further ahead of rivals on the Lotus 80 engaging the entire bottom of the chassis as an aerodynamic device for generating downforce without the necessity of external wings. Since the Lotus 80 solution had many drawbacks, Chapman devised the twin-chassis concept of Lotus 86 and 88 that should have solved the issues, but it was never allowed to race due to failure to comply with existing technical rules.
|Designer(s)||Patrick Head (Technical Director)|
Neil Oatley (Chief Designer)
Frank Dernie (Head of Aerodynamics)
|Suspension (front)||Lower wishbones and inboard springs|
|Suspension (rear)||Lower wishbones and inboard springs|
|Engine||Ford-Cosworth DFV 2,993 cc (182.6 cu in) V8 naturally aspirated mid-mounted|
|Transmission||1979: Hewland FGB 5-speed manual |
1980-1982: Hewland FGA 400 5-speed manual
|Weight||1979: 579 kg |
1980: 585 kg
1981-1982: 540 kg
|Tyres||Goodyear (1979-1982) |
|Notable drivers|| Alan Jones,|
Emilio de Villota
|Debut||1979 Spanish Grand Prix|
|Constructors' Championships||2 (1980 & 1981)|
|Drivers' Championships||1 (Alan Jones, 1980)|
The car made its debut at the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama in 1979, the fifth round of the season and the first European round after the non-ground effect FW06 was used for the first four rounds in the Americas and South Africa. The car proved to be reasonably competitive; Australian Alan Jones put the car 13th at Jarama and then 4th for the next round in Belgium; he even led 16 laps of the race before retiring with electrical failure. But when the British Grand Prix at Silverstone came around, chief designer Frank Dernie had designed and implemented a system that ensured that the car's all-important skirts touched the ground at all times and had also corrected some aerodynamic leakage at the back of the chassis between the French and British Grand Prix. Jones then stuck the revised Williams on pole and was immediately 2 seconds faster than the next fastest car. The car served to make Team Williams a contender for the first time; Jones retired with fuel pump failure and his Swiss teammate Clay Regazzoni won his last Grand Prix and first since 1976.  Jones then won 4 of the next 5 Grand Prix in Germany, Austria, Holland and Canada in a car that was so much quicker than any of the others, particularly around high-speed circuits. But because the car's competitiveness came only at mid-season, Jones and Williams lost the driver's and constructor's championships to South African Jody Scheckter and Ferrari, respectively. But the FW07's competitiveness meant that Williams was a top contender for the 1980 season and beyond. The FW07 was similar to the Lotus 79 which had won both titles during the 1978 Formula One season, but had a stiffer chassis.
The FW07 became FW07B in 1980, and Regazzoni was replaced by Carlos Reutemann. While the latter and Williams's other driver, Alan Jones, formed a successful partnership, they were not comfortable with each other. Both drivers developed the FW07 further, working especially on setup and suspension strengthening. The car was now so efficient in creating downforce from its ground effect design that the front wings were unnecessary. Jones won five races in Argentina, France, Britain, Canada and Watkins Glen in the USA to win his only world championship, while Reutemann won at a wet race in Monaco. Williams won also their first Constructors' Championship. The main challenge to the FW07 came from Nelson Piquet in Brabham's neat BT49.
The FW07B evolved into the FW07C for 1981, and this time it was Reutemann who challenged Piquet for the championship, narrowly missing out in the final race, but Williams took home the constructors' championship after four more wins. Further work was done to the suspension, especially after the FIA banned the moveable skirts needed for effective ground effect. The hydraulic suspension systems were developed by Jones, who hated the rock hard suspension. During a winter test session at the Paul Ricard Circuit in the south of France, he suggested to Frank Williams that to compensate for the harsh ride and the pounding the driver gets while driving the car that he "put suspension on the seat", which Frank thought was a good idea. However, he then replied that Jones should sit on his wallet. 'Yeah,' drawled the tough Aussie, 'then give me something to put in it!' Jones temporarily left Formula One because of the extremely unpleasant ride the FW07C gave, he later described driving the car as "wrecking the internals". The FW07C was the second fastest car of 1981, behind the Renault RE30, but the Williams was more reliable.
BBC's Horizon series followed the team during winter testing, and later produced the film Gentlemen, Lift Your Skirts which was broadcast during 1981. The film featured extensive behind the scenes footage of the team at work and interviews with the drivers, Frank Williams and Patrick Head.
The FW07D was an experimental six-wheeled test car (four driven rear wheels, and two undriven front wheels) tested by Alan Jones on a single occasion at the Donington Park circuit. With the FW07D proving the concept, its unique design was incorporated into the six-wheeled FW08B.
After Jones retired, Williams took on Keke Rosberg in 1982. His mercurial driving seemed to suit the FW07, which although it was now three years old, was still competitive. After 15 wins, 300 points, one drivers' and two constructors' titles the FW07 was replaced by the similarly engineered FW08 from early 1982.
Complete Formula One World Championship resultsEdit
(key) (results in bold indicate pole position) (results in italics indicate fastest lap)
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- As seen in BBC's 1981 documentary "Gentlemen, lift your skirts..."
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