Our British GP Wins - Part I: 70s & 80s

Published on
06 Jul 2023
Est. reading time
5 Min

As we celebrate our 800th Grand Prix, we're looking back at our 10 victories on home soil

The British Grand Prix is more than just a home race for us at Williams Racing. It's the Grand Prix we are most successful at in our long racing history.
As we celebrate our 800th Grand Prix this month, we're looking back at 10 of those races on British soil where a Williams Racing driver took to the top step of the podium, and all 10 are memorable in their own right.
First up, our triumphs in the 1970s and 80s.


Regazzoni celebrates on the top step
Regazzoni celebrates on the top step
Drivers: Alan Jones and Clay Regazzoni
Qualifying: Jones - P1, Regazzoni - P4
Race: Regazzoni - P1, Jones - DNF
The first British Grand Prix win for Williams was far more than national pride for Frank Williams and the team — it was our first-ever Formula 1 victory too.
Alan Jones found tremendous pace in the upgraded FW07 to set record times at the Silverstone circuit during Practice and Qualifying. He promptly took pole position for the race, with Clay Regazzoni taking P4.
Clay's lightning start saw him take the lead from lights out, but a three-wide entry into Stowe against Alan and Renault's Jean-Pierre Jabouille ended with Clay settling for third while Alan sprinted off in the lead.
Despite Jabouille keeping tabs on the lead, a pit stop disaster that broke part of his front wing dropped the Frenchman back to see Williams running first and second. Unfortunately for Alan, it wouldn't last.
A water pump failure on Lap 38 of 68 had the Australian's car trundle into the pits amid a cloud of smoke, letting Clay inherit a lead he retained until the flag.
Delighted with what would become the final win of his career, Clay drank orange juice rather than champagne on the podium, respecting our then-Saudi Arabian sponsor's alcohol-free traditions.
Alan, however, was less happy, telling an interviewer: "I'll give you one guess," when asked how he felt in a post-race TV appearance. If only he knew how it'd go one year later...


Drivers: Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann
Qualifying: Jones - P3, Reutemann - P4
Race: Jones - P1, Reutemann - P3
Alan headed to Brands Hatch for the 1980 British GP after a win in France a fortnight earlier that leapfrogged him above Nelson Piquet and René Arnoux to take the championship lead.
Partnered by Argentine racer Carlos Reutemann for the season, the pair lined up on the second row behind the two Ligiers of Didier Pironi and Jacques Laffite for the race.
With Jones pressuring Laffite in the opening lap but unable to pass and Reutemann slipping back to P5, it looked like the Ligier pair would score a 1-2 victory until three tyre failures caused by cracked wheel rims ended their hopes.
Race leader Pironi's front-left puncture forced him to pit and slip back before eventually retiring after a second Goodyear puncture in the latter laps.
Laffite's spectacular failure into the catch fencing at Hawthorn Bend after a slowly deflating left-rear tyre handed Alan the win and more valuable points to his championship campaign, with Carlos finishing third.
"I'm starting to feel a little bit more confident now," said Alan after the race when discussing his championship hopes. "I said to Frank 'If I win today, I'll feel a lot happier...'"
The Aussie would be right to feel happy — he went on take five more podiums from the remaining six races to win the title and help us clinch our first World Constructors' Championship crown by the season's end.


Mansell on his way to victory at Brands Hatch
Mansell on his way to victory at Brands Hatch
Drivers: Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet
Qualifying: Piquet - P1, Mansell - P2
Race: Mansell - P1, Piquet - P2
The final F1 race at Brands Hatch also represented the first of four British Grand Prix wins for Nigel Mansell, although he had won his first-ever F1 race at the same venue in the 1985 European GP nine months prior.
Frank Williams received a standing ovation as he returned to the paddock for the first time since his life-changing car crash before the season began, and he witnessed a spectacular duel between his two Williams cars.
Nelson Piquet took pole position ahead of Nigel to have both FW11s on the front row. A Turn 1 crash that tragically had Jacques Laffite break both his legs, ending his F1 career, allowed Nigel to take Piquet’s spare car after the transmission failed on his own.
The pair spent the race in a fierce battle for the win, with Piquet leading until Lap 23 when Nigel powered past the sister Williams on the run down Pilgrim's Drop.
The Brazillian didn't relent, especially after the pit stops, but couldn't get by, and the home hero led a Williams 1-2 over the line.
"This was the fastest race I've ever driven in my life. It was a very, very fast race," claimed Nigel, who nearly fainted when stepping out of the car before enjoying roars from the crowd as he sat hanging out the boot of a Range Rover to wave to his fans en route to the podium.


Drivers: Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet
Qualifying: Piquet - P1, Mansell - P2
Race: Mansell - P1, Piquet - P2
'Our Nige' won his second British Grand Prix one year later, this time at Silverstone, to demonstrate that the extra speed the home fans gave him wasn't limited to Brands Hatch.
Again, Piquet qualified ahead to be the lead Williams off the line, but neither of our two drivers was in front by the first corner after Alain Prost's super start had his McLaren sweep around the outside of Copse to take the lead.
The Honda-powered FW11B was a far quicker car, however. Piquet and Mansell swept back past Prost before the end of the Hangar Straight on the opening lap, with the Brazilian ahead of the Brit.
Unable to close in on the lead, Nigel pitted for fresh tyres on Lap 35 for a famous 29-lap charge to close down a 28-second gap on his teammate.
With two laps remaining, the two cars, now a lap ahead of every competitor, found themselves sharing the same piece of track at the Hangar Straight, and Nigel made his move, selling a dummy on Piquet that gifted the inside line at Stowe. Red 5 deftly sliced by to take the lead and the win.
After running out of fuel on his in-lap, Nigel had to take to a recovery vehicle to get back for podium celebrations... but not before stopping to kiss the tarmac at the site of his race-winning pass.

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