Every Williams Racing Season Opener Ever

Published on
16 Feb 2024
Est. reading time
12 Min

Discover how we’ve fared at each of our season openers throughout our long and storied history

We are just a few days away from writing the first words in the latest chapter of Williams Racing’s long and storied history.
Every chapter must start somewhere, and in our sport, all eyes are firmly fixed on the season opener.
The opening round to a Formula 1 season is commonly a fascinating affair, with new machinery being pushed to levels it has never been pushed to before
As we prepare for our 47th season in the sport, join us as we take a look through all of our appearances at the opening round of an F1 World Championship season, highlighting some of the more notable results.

1978 - Argentine Grand Prix

Alan Jones - DNF
We were founded in 1977, but we didn’t feature at that year’s opening event, instead making our debut five rounds in.
Our first time at the opening round of a championship came the following year, with Frank Williams and Patrick Head debuting their first in-house car, the FW06, at the 1978 Argentine Grand Prix.
Though it was a largely competitive and reliable machine, that was not the case in Buenos Aires as Alan Jones was forced to retire with a fuel system issue on Lap 36.

1979 - Argentine Grand Prix

Alan Jones - P9
Clay Regazzoni - P10
Both Williams drivers were comfortably short of the points in our first Grand Prix with two cars, as our 1979 pair finished two laps down on the race winner.

1980 - Argentine Grand Prix

Alan Jones - P1
Carlos Reutemann - DNF
We entered the 80s with five wins under our belts from 1979 and started the new decade as we meant to go on.
Alan Jones converted his pole position into victory, finishing 24 seconds off second place.
Sadly for home favourite Carlos Reutemann, his afternoon was curtailed after grass got into his radiators, causing the engine to overheat.

1981 - United States Grand Prix West

Alan Jones - P1
Carlos Reutemann - P2
As opening rounds go, they don’t come much better than they did for the team in Long Beach, California.
Alan Jones led Carlos Reutemann home to secure our first of three season-opening 1-2 finishes in our history.

1982 - South African Grand Prix

Carlos Reutemann - P2
Keke Rosberg - P5
Carlos Reutemann picked up the final podium of his F1 career at the 1982 opener at Kyalami, in what proved to be his penultimate race.
Keke Rosberg began his championship-winning season with a P5 finish on his Williams debut.

1983 - Brazilian Grand Prix

Jacques Laffite - P4
Keke Rosberg - DSQ
A post-race disqualification for Keke Rosberg, after the Finn was given a push start in the pit lane following a short blaze, saw him stripped of a P2 finish.
Consequently, no drivers were shuffled up the order following this disqualification, including our own Jacques Laffite who finished fourth.
This means it’s the only race in F1 history where no one finished second.

1984 - Brazilian Grand Prix

Keke Rosberg - P2
Jacques Laffite - DNF
The following year saw Keke keep his second-place finish at the Jacarepaguá Circuit, but his French teammate wasn’t so lucky as his race ended on Lap 15 following an electrical issue.

1985 - Brazilian Grand Prix

Nigel Mansell - DNF
Keke Rosberg - DNF
Nigel Mansell’s Williams debut was one to forget, with both of our drivers out by the 10th lap. Mansell had an exhaust problem, with Rosberg suffering a turbo fault.

1986 - Brazilian Grand Prix

Nelson Piquet - P1
Nigel Mansell - DNF
Home favourite Nelson Piquet won excellently in Rio at what was the first race since Frank’s life-changing accident – the first of nine victories for the team that year. His teammate Nigel Mansell spun off on the opening tour.

1987 - Brazilian Grand Prix

Nelson Piquet - P2
Nigel Mansell - P6
There was another home podium for Piquet as we started what became our fourth Constructors’ Championship winning season, with Mansell scoring the final point in P6.

1988 - Brazilian Grand Prix

Nigel Mansell - DNF
Riccardo Patrese - DNF
There was no Brazilian podium for the team in ‘88 after engine issues curtailed proceedings early, an early sign of things to come that season.

1989 - Brazilian Grand Prix

Thierry Boutsen - DNF
Riccardo Patrese - DNF
Again, there was no change in fortunes for the team in 1989, with Belgian Thierry Boutsen out on just the third lap. His teammate, Riccardo Patrese, fared slightly better before he too was forced to retire on Lap 51.

1990 - United States Grand Prix

Thierry Boutsen - P3
Riccardo Patrese - P9
A new decade and a new opening round destination. To beat the heat experienced in the previous year’s visit to Phoenix, Arizona, the race was moved from June to March.
Boutsen would finish on the podium, with Patrese out of the points.

1991 - United States Grand Prix

Nigel Mansell - DNF
Riccardo Patrese - DNF
In what proved to be F1’s final visit to Phoenix, we lined up P3 and P4 on the grid. Sadly gearbox issues for both our drivers meant they didn’t see the chequered flag.

1992 - South African Grand Prix

Nigel Mansell - P1
Riccardo Patrese - P2
Kyalami was the venue for the FW14B to set a precedent for what was to come in 1992. Nigel converted his pole to victory, whilst Riccardo came from P4 on the grid to secure a 1-2 finish.

1993 - South African Grand Prix

Alain Prost - P1
Damon Hill - DNF
Alain Prost got his final title-winning season off to a dominant start, taking pole, the victory and the fastest lap at Kyalami in ‘93. His debutant teammate Damon Hill had a collision on Lap 16, but he’d get an opening race victory of his own just a few years later.

1994 - Brazilian Grand Prix

Damon Hill - P2
Ayrton Senna - DNF
Ayrton Senna took pole in his debut race for the team in front of his adoring home fans but was running P2 on lap 55 when he spun off whilst chasing Michael Schumacher.
Damon Hill came home in P2, but one lap down on the Benetton that took first place.

1995 - Brazilian Grand Prix

David Coulthard - P2
Damon Hill - DNF
David Coulthard picked up the second podium of his career to date at the 1995 running of the Brazilian GP. Damon Hill, who had been on pole at Interlagos, suffered a gearbox issue on Lap 30.

1996 - Australian Grand Prix

Damon Hill - P1
Jacques Villeneuve - P2
Damon finally got his opening day victory in 1996, kickstarting what would be that famous title-winning year. Jacques Villeneuve, making his F1 debut after switching from Indy Car, had been leading but was slowed by an oil leak, eventually settling for P2.

1997 - Australian Grand Prix

Heinz-Harald Frentzen - P8
Jacques Villeneuve - DNF
Jacques’ title-winning season would start by being taken out by the Ferrari of Eddie Irvine at Albert Park’s first turn. Heinz-Harald would be a classified finisher but pulled in three laps short of the finish with brake trouble.

1998 - Australian Grand Prix

Heinz-Harald Frentzen - P3
Jacques Villeneuve - P5
We might have arrived at the 1998 season with an unfamiliar red livery, but the outcome in Melbourne was one we had seen before an opening race podium.
Heinz-Harald was the highest-finishing red car that particular afternoon with a P3 finish. Jacques finished in P5, behind the Ferrari of Irvine.

1999 - Australian Grand Prix

Ralf Schumacher - P3
Alessandro Zanardi - DNF
Ralf Schumacher began his six-year spell at the team with a P3 finish in Melbourne, whilst Alex Zanardi spun off on lap 19.

2000 - Australian Grand Prix

Ralf Schumacher - P3
Jenson Button - DNF
A new millennium brought a new face to the team, but Jenson Button's maiden F1 outing ended in heartbreak when his engine failed on Lap 46. The young Briton had made his way up from P19 to P6.
There was still joy for the team at the end of the race though, as Ralf Schumacher secured his second Australian P3 in as many seasons.

2001 - Australian Grand Prix

Ralf Schumacher - DNF
Juan Pablo Montoya - DNF
Neither Williams saw the chequered flag on an afternoon that was overshadowed by the tragic death of marshal Graham Beveridge.

2002 - Australian Grand Prix

Juan Pablo Montoya - P2
Ralf Schumacher - DNF
After a rookie season that saw him quickly become a fan favourite, Juan Pablo began the 2002 campaign with a podium finish Down Under. As for Ralf, he had made a great start but found himself airborne after being caught out by the earlier-braking Ferrari in front – one of eight cars to retire on the opening tour.

2003 - Australian Grand Prix

Juan Pablo Montoya - P2
Ralf Schumacher - P8
Juan Pablo finished second in Australia for a second successive season, gaining one position from his grid spot. Ralf almost gained a single spot, finishing P8.

2004 - Australian Grand Prix

Ralf Schumacher - P4
Juan Pablo Montoya - P5
The first race of the last season of our Ralf/Juan Pablo partnership finished with a solid 4-5 finish at Albert Park.

2005 - Australian Grand Prix

Mark Webber - P5
Nick Heidfeld - DNF
Having lined up P3 on the grid for his home race, Mark Webber might have been dreaming of more than the P5 finish he ended up with on his Williams debut.
Also making his Williams bow was Nick Heidfeld, but his afternoon ended on Lap 42 after a tangle with compatriot, Michael Schumacher.

2006 - Bahrain Grand Prix

Mark Webber - P6
Nico Rosberg - P7
Nico Rosberg’s highly-anticipated Williams debut saw him secure the fastest lap on his way to P7, though there was no bonus point for that achievement in those days. He followed home Mark Webber in Bahrain

2007 - Australian Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg - P7
Alexander Wurz - DNF
Nico would finish P7 again in 2007, whilst Alex Wurz had a collision with Williams alumnus David Coulthard on Lap 48 to end his afternoon.

2008 - Australian Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg - P3
Kazuki Nakajima - P6
The first podium of the 2016 World Champion’s career came with Williams at the chaotic 2008 Australian Grand Prix.
There were just eight classified finishers, six of whom saw the chequered flag – the final one being Kazuki Nakajima securing the best result of his F1 career.

2009 - Australian Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg - P6
Kazuki Nakajima - DNF
Kazuki suffered an early retirement in 2009 following an accident, whilst Nico brought his FW31 home in P6.

2010 - Bahrain Grand Prix

Rubens Barrichello - P10
Nico Hulkenberg - P14
A new decade, a new lineup for the team and some new rules – it was the first time since 1993 that refuelling in-race was not allowed. Rubens Barrichello came home in P10 with the reigning GP2 champion, Nico Hulkenberg, in P14 at what was F1’s first and only use of Bahrain’s endurance layout.

2011 - Australian Grand Prix

Rubens Barrichello - DNF
Pastor Maldonado - DNF
In what was our first pointless season opener in 10 years, both Williams cars suffered transmission problems.

2012 - Australian Grand Prix

Pastor Maldonado - P13
Bruno Senna - P16
Both Williams cars were classified finishers in 2012 but failed to see the chequered flag after collision damage for Bruno forced him to retire on Lap 52 before a heavy accident for Pastor on the penultimate lap.

2013 - Australian Grand Prix

Valtteri Bottas - P14
Pastor Maldonado - DNF
Pastor spun off to bring an abrupt end to his afternoon on Lap 24, whilst Valtteri gained two positions from his grid spot to finish P14.

2014 - Australian Grand Prix

Valtteri Bottas - P5
Felipe Massa - DNF
The dawn of the turbo hybrid era saw Felipe qualify P9 with Valtteri in P10, but the Finn would be handed a five-place penalty for a gearbox change.
No matter, he’d dust himself off and fight back to P5 come race day, but Felipe was involved in an opening lap collision.

2015 - Australian Grand Prix

Felipe Massa - P4
Valtteri Bottas - DNS
A back injury from qualifying forced Valtteri out of the race so, fighting alone, Felipe finished P4 – one place down from his Saturday efforts.

2016 - Australian Grand Prix

Felipe Massa - P5
Valtteri Bottas - P8
2016 marks our most recent double-points finish at the opening round of a season, with Felipe and Valtteri both improving from their grid spots come Sunday’s race.

2017 - Australian Grand Prix

Felipe Massa - P6
Lance Stroll - DNF
Lance Stroll became the latest driver to make their F1 debut with the team but retired with a brake issue on Lap 40. Felipe enjoyed a solid weekend, finishing P6 from his P7 grid spot.

2018 - Australian Grand Prix

Lance Stroll - P14
Sergey Sirotkin - DNF
There were more brake problems for our latest rookie in 2018, with Sergey Sirotkin’s debut lasting all of four laps. Lance would see the chequered flag this time, coming home in P14.

2019 - Australian Grand Prix

George Russell - P16
Robert Kubica - P17
The remarkable comeback story of Robert Kubica was completed in 2019 when he made his inspirational F1 return. He followed George Russell home for a P16-P17 finish.

2020 - Austrian Grand Prix

Nicholas Latifi - P11
George Russell - DNF
The team were set up for Free Practice in Melbourne when the decision was made to cancel the start of the F1 season owing to COVID-19. Four months later we were back in action, opening a campaign in Europe for the very first time in our history.
On his debut, Nicholas Latifi finished one place outside of the points at the Red Bull Ring, whilst George Russell had retired on lap 49 with a fuel pressure issue.

2021 - Bahrain Grand Prix

George Russell - P14
Nicholas Latifi - P18
Season openers returned to Bahrain in 2021. George would make it into Q2 on Saturday to set up his P14 finish on Sunday, with Nicky wrapping up the weekend in P18 with a late turbo issue.

2022 - Bahrain Grand Prix

Alex Albon - P13
Nicholas Latifi - P16
Alex Albon’s return to F1 saw him carry the FW44 into Q2 and onwards to a P13 finish in the first race under the new regulations. Nicky would gain four positions from his grid spot to end the evening in P16.

2023 - Bahrain Grand Prix

Alex Albon - P10
Logan Sargeant - P12
Our most recent season opener saw Alex secure a single point in Bahrain, holding off a charging AlphaTauri in the process. Logan Sargeant drove a stellar first racing lap of his F1 career on his way to a P12 finish.
Welcome to the Williams Gaming Club
Join the community and race with us

Related Tags:

Contact & Media
Store Location
Stay in the Loop
Powered By
© the Williams Group, under licence to Williams IP Holdings LLC
Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited is a company registered in England and Wales under company number 1297497. Its registered office is at Grove, Wantage, Oxfordshire, OX12 0DQ
Powered By