The blue, white and gold branding of Rothmans had develop into a motorsport staple of the 1980s and ’90s, having emblazoned Porsche’s 956 prototypes, the Prodrive-run Subaru World Rally Championship workforce and Honda’s 500cc grand prix bikes throughout the years. Then assuming title sponsorship of Williams’ Method 1 workforce at its peak, it loved 4 profitable years culminating in back-to-back titles for Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve in 1996 and 1997.
Then, father or mother firm Rothmans Worldwide made the choice to cede its well-known colors and as a substitute use the Williams workforce to advertise its Australian model Winfield. The Williams vehicles have been stripped of the blue the workforce had run since 1985 and turned out in a pink, white and gold scheme for the 1998 season. It was deliciously sacrilegious, notably following a heated battle with Ferrari for supremacy within the 1997 title struggle, that it might forged apart its heritage and fall consistent with its rival workforce.
Had every other workforce painted its automobile pink in 1998 (besides maybe McLaren), then it’s uncertain that anybody would have batted an eyelid. Provided that context of Williams and Ferrari having fought so fractiously towards one another the earlier 12 months, culminating in Michael Schumacher’s botched swipe at Villeneuve, for Williams to ring the change appeared decidedly off the mark in lots of peoples’ eyes.
It’s maybe unlucky that the swap to a pink scheme coincided with a decline in fortunes for Williams, having been constantly on the sharp finish of the grid. The lack of design dynamo Adrian Newey had disadvantaged Williams of its driving drive on the technical workforce, whereas Renault’s departure additionally left the workforce fielding the second-string Mecachrome engines. Villeneuve duly went from successful a title to ending fifth within the standings, 79 factors away from eventual title winner Mika Hakkinen as Williams embarked upon a fallow interval.
Most of that efficiency shortfall was wrapped in Williams’ incapacity to adapt efficiently to the narrow-track rules that have been put in to sluggish the vehicles down. McLaren, now beneath the technical steering of Newey, did so expertly – shifting the vanguard of the sidepod ahead to manage extra adeptly with the further-inboard tyre wake.
Ralf Schumacher, Michael Schumacher 1999 French GP
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Naturally, historical past doesn’t look favourably on the pink interval at Williams. However, taking out the context of a plunge in fortunes, and the automobile trying a bit too just like the Ferrari at a distance, the vehicles regarded nice. The FW20 of 1998 maybe took some refining, and ultimately the livery had a few of the white patches whittled away to scrub up the block of sponsors on the entrance, however the 1999 rendition was a splendidly ’90s concoction – becoming earlier than the transition to the brand new millennium. The gold and blue flashes, and the extra sculpted white fill down the centre produced a really cool trying automobile.
The swap in Winfield’s font design additionally helped the automobile too, because the serifs performed with the brush-stroke flashes across the sidepod space. Maybe from a real livery design standpoint, the 1999 version shouldn’t have labored however, amongst an already-colourful discipline that season, you may see it coming a mile off.
That 12 months’s FW21 was an altogether neater machine too, as designers Geoff Willis and Gavin Fisher had understood the earlier 12 months’s foibles. The workforce had lowered the centre of gravity within the new automobile, and though the Mecachrome – now badged as Supertec – acquired upgrades, it was nonetheless loads of horsepower down on the main powerplants.
Williams had anticipated the automobile to be a lot stronger than the 1998 machine, nonetheless, and though Ralf Schumacher scored a formidable 35 factors in his first 12 months with the workforce, CART champion Alessandro Zanardi’s incapacity to attain left Williams fifth total in a congested midfield. Zanardi’s struggles have been properly publicised, being unable to cope with the rock-hard grooved tyres in low-speed corners.
Schumacher virtually gained the madcap 1999 European Grand Prix, nonetheless, which might have earned the pink scheme extra adulation – in spite of everything, the final consensus is profitable automobile is an attractive one. Sadly, a puncture tore victory from his palms, and Williams by no means managed to take both of its pink Method 1 vehicles to the highest step of the rostrum.
F1 European GP ’99 retrospective: The day Ralf stepped out of Michael’s shadow
Maybe it’s simply the nostalgia speaking, on condition that the 1999 season was the primary full season this author watched, however the ugly ducklings of the Williams period needs to be celebrated as daring designs.
Ralf Schumacher, 1999 European GP
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Woody Woodpecker’s avian mug on the nostril solely provides to the nostalgia issue, and though it’s laborious to totally defend one thing’s sartorial qualities – particularly when it’s fully subjective – the pink Williams liveries weren’t the monsters they have been made out to be.
Though the next BMW-influenced liveries arguably regarded cleaner, their company nature took away a few of the soul. Admittedly, they weren’t all dangerous; BMW’s check livery grafted onto the FW20 was great. The darkish blue automobile, marked by pinstripes which all light to white on the nostril, regarded extremely slick.
As a toddler, that livery obtained me very enthusiastic about BMW’s return to F1 – just for me to open up a duplicate of F1 Racing (now GP Racing, in fact) a few months later to be dismayed by the rather more insipid 2000 livery. Maybe that crushing disappointment was the rationale I cherish the pink ones a lot…
Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Woody Woodpecker 1998
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