1976 Williams FW05
- The first Formula 1 car to feature a Frank Williams chassis number
- Driven by Jacky Ickx and Arturo Merzario, including at the 1976 German Grand Prix
- Previous podium finisher at the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique
- Driven for demonstration at the 2018 Grand Prix de Monaco Historique by Ricardo Patrese
The Williams FW05 sits at an intersection of three interesting individuals and teams: Lord Hesketh, Frank Williams, and Walter Wolf. In 1975, Hesketh was closing its doors, while at the same time, Walter Wolf joined forces with Frank Williams and his Formula 1 team. Keenly aware of Hesketh’s departure from Formula 1, Wolf purchased Hesketh’s remaining 308C chassis tubs and designs from the 1975 season. Utilizing the spare chassis tubs and dubbing the new cars the FW05, the first to be built by Williams was chassis no. 03, as the first two were Hesketh builds from the previous season.
Nineteen seventy-six was a difficult season for the Williams team. Chassis no. 03 came into the World Championship for the latter half of the season, beginning with the French Grand Prix. With none other than Jacky Ickx behind the wheel, the pair managed a 10th place finish. The next race, the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, Ickx was behind the wheel of chassis 03 again, but the pair failed to qualify. This would be Ickx’s last time racing with this particular car and Williams, as he was fired from the team shortly thereafter. Chassis 03 passed to Arturo Merzario, Ickx’s replacement.
Merzario’s first race was the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. James Hunt and Hesketh won the race, but the race itself was defined by Nika Lauda’s near fatal accident. After running off the track and bouncing back on, Lauda’s car burst into flames and came to a halt. Both Harald Ertl’s Hesketh and Brett Lunger’s Surtees could not avoid the wreck and collided with the car before coming to a stop a short distance away, with both drivers exiting the cars and running to help. Merzario, not far behind, stopped his car and joined in to help. Merzario was credited with pulling Lauda out of his flaming Ferrari and saving his life as a result.
Merzario and chassis no. 03 returned at the next round of the Championship, at the Austrian Grand Prix. Results did not improve, and even though both Merzario and his Williams appeared at each race for the remainder of the season, the pair never managed to complete a race. At the season finale at the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji, Merzario qualified 19th but in a torrential downpour dropped out after 23 laps with gearbox problems. This would be chassis no. 03’s last Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Following the 1976 Formula 1 season, chassis no. 03 was sold into private ownership and was campaigned in the British ShellSport International Championship with Derek Cook and subsequently the Aurora AFX Championship with former Le Mans competitor John Cooper.
Lord Hesketh himself would purchase both cars from Cooper after the 1978 season, refinishing them in Hesketh’s white, red, and blue livery. Both chassis no. 02 and 03 were sold in short order to classic car dealer Malcolm Cube and were subsequently split up, with 02 going to Germany and 03 going to historic racer John Fulston. He kept chassis no. 03 for seven years before selling the car to Chris Ball.
Ball’s first race in his new Williams (still masquerading as a Hesketh) was at the 1985 September Silverstone HSCC meeting in the Haslemere Sports Car Centre F1 Trophy Race, finishing 6th overall and racing the car once more afterwards. In 1990, it was sold to Valintine Lindsay, another vintage racing enthusiast, but remained unused in his ownership. Sold to Peter Austin in 1999, it was purchased by Steve Hartley in 2005.
Hartley rebuilt and prepared the Williams with Mirage Motorsport for more historic motorsport usage and appeared at the 2005 Gold Cup meeting at Oulton Park. Taking part in the HSCC Derek Bell Trophy races, Hartley both qualified and finished 3rd in the subsequent race. In 2008, Hartley applied to race at that year’s Grand Prix de Monaco Historique. Upon receiving his application, the Automobile Club de Monaco advised that the car would be accepted if it was converted back from Hesketh form to its proper Williams livery and identity, as a Hesketh 308C had already been accepted. Now restored to its proper identity after 30 years, the car appeared at Monaco in 2008 and was able to participate in what is one of the greatest historic racing events on the planet. One year later, the car was sold to Roger Wills, where it continued to compete in historic racing.
The Williams returned to Monaco in 2014 where it was piloted by Nick Padmore to a 3rd place finish in its race. Acquired by the current owner shortly thereafter, it raced at the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique in 2018, qualifying 5th but sadly failing to finish. Furthermore, the car was also driven by Ricardo Patrese for a handful of demonstration laps alongside other noteworthy drivers, at Patrese’s request. During this time, the car has been prepared by CGA Race Engineering in the UK and remains ready to compete at events in the 2019 season.