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  Article Image gallery (42) Chassis (3) Specifications Video (2)  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1996
Numbers built:6
Designed by:Patrick Head and Adrian Newey for Williams
Successor:Williams FW19 Renault
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:October 17, 2014
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Click here to download printer friendly versionAfter two difficult and at times tragic seasons, the Williams Renault team bounced back in 1996. The return to form had already set in during the second half of the 1995 season with the introduction of the 'B-spec' of the Renault-engined FW17. The rule changes between the season were relatively small, so Technical Director Patrick Head and Chief Designer Adrian Newey could suffice with a further development of their existing and race-winning design to create the FW18.

The FW18 carbon-fibre composite monocoque chassis and double wishbone suspension all looked very conventional on paper. The car was clothed with the highly effective aero-package created by Adrian Newey. The few rule changes for 1996 focused on driver protection with a lower mounted seat and revised cockpit surrounds. Also carried over from the previous Williams was the Renault three-litre V10 engine, which produced a hefty 750 bhp. This power was transferred to the rear wheels through a Williams six-speed, paddle-shift gearbox.

The biggest change for 1996 was the arrival of 1995 CART Champion and Indy 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve. He was the son of the legendary Gilles Villeneuve and was joined by 1994 and 1995 runner-up Damon Hill, who himself was the son of the great Graham Hill. Villeneuve had spent over 9,000 testing kilometres to prepare himself for the new challenge. He had the controls on his FW18 set up quite differently from Hill. The pedals were aligned to suit his left-foot braking style and the up and down shift paddles were both mounted on the right-hand side of the steering wheel.

The young Canadian made an almost perfect Formula 1 debut by grabbing pole position and setting the fastest lap in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. In the race he had to settle for second behind his more experienced team mate. This was only the second one-two debut for a new car during the 1990s; the Williams FW14 had a similar successful debut. Later in the decade the McLaren MP4/13, also designed by Adrian Newey, would repeat that feat at its first race.

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  Article Image gallery (42) Chassis (3) Specifications Video (2)