The Williams F1 team is one of the most successful and respected teams in Formula 1 history. It has won nine constructors’ championships and seven drivers’ championships since its debut in 1977. However, the team has also faced some controversies and accusations of cheating or breaking the rules over the years.
One of the most recent incidents occurred in June 2022. The FIA fined the team $25,000 for a procedural breach of the sport’s financial regulations. It failed to submit its complete full year reporting documentation from 2021 by the deadline.
The team voluntarily disclosed the breach and cooperated with the FIA to remedy it. They entered into an Accepted Breach Agreement (ABA) that resulted in the fine.
Another case of alleged cheating by Williams took place in 1997. Ferrari accused the team of using an illegal brake system. This allowed the drivers to control the brake balance from inside the cockpit.
Ferrari discovered the system after Michael Schumacher crashed into Jacques Villeneuve. The incident happened at the European Grand Prix, which decided the title in Villeneuve’s favor.
Ferrari lodged a protest against Williams, claiming that the system gave them an unfair advantage and violated the technical regulations. The FIA dismissed the protest, ruling that the system was legal and did not affect the outcome of the championship.
Williams Cheating – The “Watergate” Scandal Was the Most Infamous
Perhaps the most famous incident involving Williams Cheating was in 1982. The scandal became known as ‘Watergate’.
The team used water tanks in their cars. When the tanks were full it circumvented the minimum weight limit of 580 kg. They filled the tanks with water before scrutineering. Once the cars had been passed as the correct weight, the team emptied these during the race, making the cars lighter and faster.
This was classic cheating!
After Keke Rosberg won the Swiss Grand Prix (held at Dijon in France) Ferrari exposed the scheme. His car was 7 kg underweight.
The team was disqualified from that race and also from Brazil and San Marino. They used the same trick at this event. The FIA stripped Rosberg of his points from those races. Despite this he still won the drivers’ championship by a single point.
These are some of the examples of how Williams has been caught cheating or breaking the rules in Formula 1. However, it should be noted that cheating is not exclusive to Williams, as many other teams have also resorted to dubious tactics or innovations to gain an edge over their rivals.
Some of these include Spygate (McLaren), Crashgate (Renault), Double Diffuser (Brawn GP), Flexible Wings (Red Bull), Traction Control (Ferrari) and many more.