Back in the early stages of the 2001 season, Williams tried out some rear wing bumper stickers on their FW23. Williams had a poor start to the season, entering their second year of partnership with BMW power. The package was a good one, and drivers Juan Pablo Montoya & Ralf Schumacher were competitive right from the off. But things just didn’t work out straight away.
Starting with Australia, Ralf Schumacher was involved in a frightening accident when BAR’s Jacques Villeneuve collided with him in the braking zone at Turn 3. Vaulting over the back of the Williams, debris from the accident hit a trackside marshal named Graham Beveridge, killing him instantly.
Moving onto Malaysia, Ralf was again tagged from behind as Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello clipped him into Turn 1 as the pair squabbled over P2 at the start of the race. Schumacher fell to the back of the field.
It got worse for Williams in Brazil. Ralf Schumacher was again hit by Barrichello on the first lap, knocking the rear wing off his car. This was mere seconds after Juan Pablo Montoya made his now infamous move on Michael Schumacher to take the lead of the race, but the race was to end in similar fashion for the Colombian. Lapping the Arrows of Jos Verstappen at the halfway point of the race, the Dutch driver barrelled into the back of the Williams under braking and knocked Montoya out of the race.
Moving onto Imola, Williams had clearly had enough of being hit from behind. Running rear wing stickers that read “Keep your distance!”, the tongue-in-cheek order to the rest of the field seemed to work. Schumacher raced home to win the race, his first victory in F1 and the first win for the team since 1997.