Formula 1 history is full of should’ves, could’ves and would’ves, but it’s easy to see 1991 as the greatest missed opportunity in the illustrious history of Williams, allowing Ayrton Senna to steal his last and perhaps greatest world championship title
Five constructors’ titles in six seasons, plus drivers’ crowns for Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve. If the Williams legend was established in the 1980s, it was in the following decade when the team branded its status as a Formula 1 ‘big beast’. Consistency was the key, mined from a powerful and long-lasting alliance with Renault’s increasingly potent V10 engines, combined with a rich and fruitful collaboration between two of F1’s greatest minds: Patrick Head and Adrian Newey.
The deep roots of that bountiful harvest were established during 1991. But ask Head today to reflect on the promise of that prelude season, and all he focuses on is the missed opportunity, the titles that were lost. Before Williams-Renault truly hit its stride there would be a stumble (or three), which was all the matured combination of Ayrton Senna and McLaren-Honda needed to delay an era-defining run of success.
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