The Williams FW07 was a ground effect Formula One racing car designed by Patrick Head for the 1979 F1 season. It was closely based on the Lotus 79, even being developed in the same wind tunnel at Imperial College London. Some observers, among them Lotus aerodynamicist Peter Wright felt the FW07 was little more than a re-engineered Lotus 79. The car was small and simple and extremely light, powered by the ubiquitous Ford Cosworth DFV. It had very clean lines and seemed to be a strong challenger for the new season, but early reliability problems halted any serious threat for the title. While not the first to use ground effects in Formula One, an honor belonging to Colin Chapman and the Lotus 78 (the 79's predecessor), Head may have had a better grasp of the principles than even Chapman.
The car made its debut partway through the 1979 season, and served to make Team Williams a contender for perhaps the first time. It was driven by Alan Jones and Clay Regazzoni, who took Williams' first win in that year's British Grand Prix, before Jones stepped up and won 4 of the next 5 races with the nimble car. Although they lost out to Ferrari in 1979, Williams had established themselves as the team to beat for 1980.
The Williams FW07 (1979
The Williams FW07B (1980
The FW07 became FW07B in 1980, and Regazzoni was replaced by the enigmatic Carlos Reutemann, and while he and Jones formed a successful partnership, they were not comfortable with each other. Both drivers developed the FW07 further, working especially on setup and suspension strengthening. The car was now so efficient in creating ground effect the front wings were unnecessary. The development worked well. Jones won five races in Argentina, France, Britain, Canada and the USA to win his only world championship, while Reutemann won at a wet Monaco. Williams' main challenge came from Nelson Piquet in Brabham's neat BT49, but while Jones won the drivers' championship, Williams won their first constructors' championship.
A little over a month after the end of the 1980 season, Williams sent its mechanics, newly crowned champion Jones and his championship winning FW07B to contest the Australian's home Grand Prix. Up against only one other Formula One car (the Alfa Romeo 179 of Bruno Giacomelli), and a field consisting of mostly Formula 5000 cars, Jones dominated the race weekend at the 1.609 km (1.000 mi) Calder Park Raceway in Melbourne. The Williams qualified in 36.1 seconds, 0.2 in front of the Alfa, and 1.8 seconds in front of the leading F5000, pointing to an easy win for the F1 cars. Jones duly won the 95 lap race, one lap ahead of Giacomelli's Alfa with fellow F1 driver Didier Pironi four laps down in third place driving an Australian designed F5000 (Pironi had been 4.1 seconds slower than Jones in qualifying). During the race, Jones set the circuits still standing (as of 2013) lap record of 36.9 seconds.
The FW07B evolved into the FW07C for 1981, and this time it was Reutemann who challenged Piquet for the championship, narrowly missing out in the final race, but Williams took home the constructors' championship after four more wins. Further work was done to the suspension, especially after the FIA banned the moveable skirts needed for effective ground effect. The hydraulic suspension systems were developed by Jones, who hated the rock hard suspension. During a winter test session at the Paul Ricard Circuit in the south of France, he suggested to Frank Williams that to compensate for the harsh ride and the pounding the driver gets while driving the car that he "put suspension on the seat", which Frank thought was a good idea. However, he then replied that Jones should sit on his wallet. 'Yeah,' drawled the tough Aussie. 'then give me something to put in it!' Jones temporarily left Formula One because of the extremely unpleasant ride the FW07C gave, he later described driving the car as "wrecking the internals".
The FW07D was an experimental six-wheeled test car (4 driven rear wheels, and 2 non-driven front wheels) that was tested by Alan Jones on one single occasion. With the FW07D proving the concept, its unique design was incorporated into the six-wheeled FW08B.