It is one of the most iconic and evocative partnerships in the history of F1 – one that recalls to memory the glories achieved by the likes of Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve amongst others – and from next year onwards, it will be revived, as Williams and Renault prepare to turn back the clock by teaming up once again more than a decade on.
The deal is for two seasons initially – 2012 and 2013, with an eye on the longer-term – and resurrects a tremendously successful relationship that previously endured from 1989 until 1997, or until 1999 if you include the subsequent two years with Mecachrome.
Over that ten-year period, Williams-Renault cars triumphed in no fewer than 63 grands prix and clinched nine world championship crowns – four drivers' titles, and five constructors' laurels – with Adrian Newey's pioneering, active-suspension 1992 FW14B by common consent one of the most revolutionary, technically-sophisticated and technologically-advanced cars ever designed.
Whilst neither of the two parties are arguably any longer the same all-conquering forces they once so famously were, the remarriage will doubtless please F1 aficionados – and above-and-beyond Renault supplying Williams with its championship-winning V8 powerplants in 2012 and 2013, the newly-reformed Anglo/French alliance includes 'several other exciting business and marketing opportunities, with a view to continuing after the introduction of the new, energy-efficient, turbocharged V6 engines arrive in the sport in 2014'.
“We are delighted and excited by our new partnership with Renault,” enthused Williams co-founder and team principal Sir Frank Williams. “This reunites the F1 team with a leading car manufacturer and complements our new relationship with Jaguar. At the same time, we are grateful to Cosworth; they have been a fair and reliable partner both on and off the track for the past two years, and we look forward to working with them across our business in the future.
“Our previous relationship with Renault was one of the most successful in Williams' history, but we will not allow ourselves to dwell too much on the past. We must look to the future and continue to re-build our on-track reputation, which I am hopeful that today's announcement will help us to do.”
“Renault remains in F1 to achieve success in a cost-efficient way, and the partnership with Williams has great potential to add to the results we have notched up over recent years with our other partner teams,” added Renault Sport F1 president Bernard Rey.
“Williams has recently taken several important steps, both commercially and technically, to update its operations and we feel that this partnership is another important step in its rigorous plan. It reiterates how determined the team is to achieve results, which matches perfectly with our own objectives.
“From 2012 onwards, the fact that we will have four partners puts us ahead of other engine manufacturers in terms of market share, but off-track it will also enable us to further use F1 as a marketing platform for our parent company, Renault, to try to bring a bit of this association to our fans and our customers worldwide.
“Of course, there's also great pride in reviving the Williams-Renault name. Together, we produced racing cars that are recognised for their technical innovation, and it is still Renault's most successful period in F1 to-date. It's a hugely exciting opportunity for both Renault and Williams.”
The announcement quells speculation that Renault is reconsidering its immediate commitment to F1 – with Lotus Renault GP, Red Bull Racing, Team Lotus and Williams now all set to use the French manufacturer's engines – and is also ostensibly a step in the right direction for Williams, as the Grove-based outfit endeavours to rediscover its winning form.
The last time the team took the chequered flag first was when Juan-Pablo Montoya prevailed in the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos – and it presently sits a lowly ninth in the F1 2011 constructors' table, lowest of the established competitors and with just two ninth-place finishes to its credit from the opening eight races courtesy of experienced Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.
To read an interview on the revival of the legendary Williams-Renault partnership with Williams F1 chairman Adam Parr, click here
, and with Renault Sport F1 president Bernard Rey, click here