Frank Williams’ consistent refusal to issue team orders for Nigel Mansell to back off and let Piquet win had eventually cost him both the services of triple champion Piquet and the all-conquering Honda Turbo engine, now powering the McLarens instead. The new FW12 was built, instead, to house a normally-aspirated Judd engine, one of a clutch of teams taking a chance on John Judd’s engine rather than the Ford DFZ. Williams’ own “reactive suspension” (Lotus had the trademark on the name “Active Suspension”) had been trialled to some success in 1987 and was now fitted as standard. A hydraulic system less complicated than Lotus’, it had been adapted for the new car and Williams hoped it would give them an edge on the other “atmo” teams. How the package would all work was anyone’s guess, but many were expecting this to be a transitional year for Williams.
5. Nigel Mansell
Nearly-man two years running and now finally official team leader for the first time in his career – but would he be able to get the most out of the new car and place his mark on the team? One thing was certain: Mansell was a fighter and would pick the car up and carry it round if necessary: As long as the car was reliable and he didn’t “drive it apart” as he sometimes did with Lotus, he would at the very least be exciting to watch. Even without the trademark moustache, which had disappeared during Winter Testing…
6. Riccardo Patrese
There were many who thought Patrese’s career was washed up after his unsuccessful spells at Alfa Romeo and Brabham. Admittedly, neither was a team able to offer him the best opportunities but there was a sense he was cruising for a paycheck rather than really racing. Becoming Williams’ first-ever Italian driver could resurrect his career – or finally bury it if he fails.