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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1978
Numbers built:5
Designed by:Patrick Head for Williams
Successor:Williams FW07 Cosworth
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:January 02, 2012
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Click here to download printer friendly versionFrank Williams was involved as an entrant in Formula 1 from the late 1960s, fielding a colourful mix of cars for an array of drivers. All these efforts had one thing in common; they were not particularly successful. In 1977 the former second-hand car salesman seemingly hit rock bottom when he was forced to leave the team he had funded by new owner Walter Wolf.

A lesser man would have given up after a decade of struggling but not Frank Williams. Instead he joined forces with one of his former employees, Patrick Head, to establish Williams Grand Prix Engineering. Head, a talented young engineer, set about designing a brand new Williams for the 1978 season, while Williams secured the all-important funding. Meanwhile, to keep a toe in the water, the new team fielded a modified March for Patrick Neve in the 1977 season.

Taking no risks with his first complete Formula 1 design, Head laid down a conventional car. Designated the Williams FW06, the new machine featured a very narrow and light aluminium monocoque. Suspension was also straightforward with in-board front springs and dampers actuated by rockers. Like most teams of the era, Williams also used the hugely competitive and readily available Ford Cosworth DFV engine. It was mated to a Hewland gearbox that could be used with five or six gears.

Efficiency was the key word in Head's design and accordingly the body panels were tightly wrapped around the monocoque. The only interruption was the centrally mounted oil-cooler; the radiators were mounted flush with the body just ahead of the rear wheels. Once completed, the Williams was finished in the neat white and green colours of new title sponsor Saudi Airlines. Frank Williams had signed a five year deal, providing a level of financial security he had certainly missed in his previous F1 endeavours.

Signed to drive the new Williams FW06 was Australian Alan Jones, who had just won his first Grand Prix in 1977 as a stand-in at Shadow. He did not have the best of starts but managed to score the fledgling team's first points at the third round of the World Championship, by finishing fourth at the South African Grand Prix. Later in the year Jones scored the team's first podium; a second at the United States Grand Prix. He ended the year 12th in the standings, with 16 points.

Unfortunately for Williams, a conventional design was not what the 1978 season called for. The 'ground effect' aerodynamics revolutions started by Lotus a year earlier had come to full effect in 1978, rendering the FW06 obsolete even before it first raced. All things considering, Jones' haul of 16 points was quite impressive. The FW06 served on into 1979 as Head prepared Williams' first ground effect car. This FW07 proved a winner and by 1980 Jones and Williams were world champions.

Generally considered the finest non-ground effect cars of the era, the Williams FW06 re-established Frank Williams in Formula 1. The Williams/Head partnership would grow out to be one of the dominant forces in the sport for decades to come.

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  Article Image gallery (33) Chassis (4) Specifications