1982 Williams FW08

The British-based Williams Racing Formula One team was formed in 1977, following on the heels of his earlier and unsuccessful F1 effort - the Frank Williams Racing Cars. The latter became Wolf-Williams Racing for the 1976 season. The newly formed Williams Racing team initially competed with a March chassis as the development and production of its own chassis progressed. The team's first victory using their own car was at the 1979 British Grand Prix in the hands of Clay Regazzoni. Between 1980 and 1997, Williams would win nine Constructors' Championships, and they scored their 100th race victory in 1997 at the British Grand Prix.

The Williams FW08 made its debut in 1982 at the Belgian Grand Prix and was an evolution of the FW07. The team's first full F1-designed car was the FW06, designed by Patrick Head and powered by a Cosworth DFV 3.0 liter V8 engine. The FW07 (FW07B, FW07C, and FW07D) was designed by Patrick Head and Frank Dernie and was inspired by the Lotus 79. It was a ground-effect F1 car that was developed in the same wind tunnel as the Lotus 79 and powered by a Ford Cosworth DFV engine. Alan Jones drove the FW07B to the team's first World Championship in 1980, and the FW07C of 1981 was able to defend the title.

During three years of racing, the FW07 (in its various configurations) earned the team two constructor's World Championship titles. Messing with the winning formula and introducing a new car was certainly a risky venture. Understandably, the new FW08 was an evolution of the FW07, incorporating many of the successful design attributes of its predecessor in a more compact (wheelbase shortened by 10 cm) and updated monocoque chassis. Aluminum honeycomb remained an essential component of the chassis construction for Williams, while many other F1 teams had migrated to composite materials such as carbon fiber.

The improvements to the chassis's strength and rigidity were vital, as new minimum ride height regulations for 1981 resulted in higher g-loading, and the stiffer suspension increased the stresses on the chassis. Changes to the ground effect aerodynamics meant the sliding lateral skirts were no longer allowed, so the suspension was modified to compensate for the absence of the lateral skirts, and to maintain the seal between the road and the fixed skirts.

The aluminum honeycomb monocoque chassis was suspended by double wishbones, coil springs over dampers, and anti-roll bars. The Ford Cosworth DFV 90-degree engine displaced 2,993cc and was mounted longitudinally, mid-ship, and acted as a fully stressed member. It developed over 500 horsepower and was paired with a Hewland FGA 400 5-speed manual transmission. The engine was less powerful than the turbocharged units being used by many other F1 teams of the era, but it was a proven commodity and very reliable. Water-cooled brakes provided the stopping power. Other Cosworth-powered teams ran a similar setup, where the water-cooled brakes served as a ballast, providing additional weight to help stabilize the vehicle. During the opening lap, the water was discharged. Racing regulations were quickly revised, and the system became obsolete.

The shape of the FW08 was perfected through wind tunnel testing at Imperial College, resulting in a lift-to-drag ratio of 8:1 (eight parts downforce / one part drag).

Compared to its competition, the FW08 was less powerful (approximately 515 horsepower compared to at least 570 bhp of the turbo cars), but it had a more reliable engine, lower weight, and was very aerodynamically efficient. The driving talents of 'Keke' Rosberg cannot be discounted either.

1982 Formula One Season
The Williams Formula One drivers for the start of the 1982 season were Keijo Rosberg (Finnish) and Carlos Reutemann (Argentine) driving a pair of FW07Cs. Irishman Derek Daly replaced Reutemann early in the season (after two races), and by this point, was racing the new FW08. Its inaugural outing was at Zolder, where it placed second overall. Rosberg and the Williams FW08 would score valuable points throughout the season, but it was the turbocharged Ferraris and Renaults that took many of the coveted top positions. During the season, the FW08 scored a single victory (at the Swiss Grand Prix), but it was enough - coupled with the proven reliability and solid finishes throughout the season - to earn Rosberg the World Championship. Williams placed fourth in the Constructor's championship.

The Williams FW08B
Racing often rewards ingenuity, and the FW08B was certainly unconventional and birthed from 'outside the box' thinking. It was a six-wheeled F1 car with power being sent to all four rear wheels. The additional set of wheels provided more traction and allowed for longer ground effects tunnels. Before it could 'toe the line,' new rules were quickly instated limiting cars to just four wheels (and only two may be driven). Another rule banned ground effect aerodynamics and, instead, required a flat bottom.

The Williams FW08C
With the FW08B ineligible to race, the FW08 was updated to conform to the new ground effect regulations. Smaller side pods were placed on either side of the engine and carried the radiators.

The 1983 Formula One Season
The advantages of the FW08 quickly subsided as the turbocharged cars continued to improve, becoming quicker and more reliable. Jacques Laffite and Rosberg were the Williams drivers for the 1983 season, with the former having started his F1 career with Frank Williams Racing Cars in 1974.

The season opener was at the Brazilian Grand Prix, and Rosberg managed to capture the pole position. He placed fifth in the third round at the French Grand Prix, following a disqualification at Brazil and an early retirement at the U.S. Grand Prix. He placed fourth at the San Marino Grand Prix and won the Monaco Grand Prix. A fifth place at the Belgian Grand Prix was followed by a 2nd at the Detroit Grand Prix and a 4th at the Canadian Grand Prix. The remainder of the season was disappointing, with an 8th at the Austrian Grand Prix being the best finish.

Laffite placed 4th at the Brazilian and U.S. Grand Prix, a 5th at Detroit, and three 6th place finishes (France, Belgian, and Germany).

Rosberg finished the season fifth in the Drivers' Championship, and the Williams team finished in fourth place.

Near the close of the season, the team began testing the Honda turbo-engined FW09.

The FW08 holds the distinction of being the final ground effect and Cosworth DFV-powered F1 car to capture the World Championship.

By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2024

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