Nigel Mansell had success with Williams-Honda in the mid-1980s, finishing narrowly second to Alain Prost in the 1986 championship before going on to become the last driver personally selected by Enzo Ferrari to join the Italian team in 1988. After finishing fifth in the 1990 championships, the Briton was on the verge of retirement before Frank Williams convinced him of the potential of the team’s new partnership with Renault. After tough negotiations, Mansell agreed to become lead driver alongside Italian Riccardo Patrese.
Newey’s newly designed car, the FW14 with a Renault RS3 3.5 V10 engine made its debut at the 1991 United States Grand Prix held on a street circuit in Phoenix, Arizona but both drivers retired early with gear box issues. By race four in Monaco, things started to come together, however, with Mansell finishing second, while in race six, the team scored a 1-2 with Patrese victorious and Mansell in second place. The 1991 drivers’ championship was won by Ayrton Senna in the McLaren MP4/6, but Mansell and Patrese recorded seven victories between them with Mansell finishing the season as runner up. The Williams-Renault partnership also narrowly missed out on the constructors’ title.
For the 1992 season, Williams-Renault debuted the FW14B. Visually the main difference between the two cars was a pair of protrusions over the FW14B’s front pushrods and a longer nose section but, crucially, the new car added active suspension and a steering-wheel gearshift to the power of Renault V10 RS3 engine. The changes added reliability to the car’s advanced technology and Mansell took pole position and first place in the first five Grand Prix of the season.
FIRST OF MANY
When the RS4 engine replaced the RS3 at the Hungarian Grand Prix (race 11 of 16), the team were unstoppable. Over the course of the season, 15 poles and 10 victories (including six 1-2s) were recorded. The drivers’ title was won with two races to spare and Williams-Renault took the constructors’ title scoring 65 points more than closest rivals McLaren-Honda. The victory became the first in a long line of Formula One titles for Renault engines.