1997

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

1996

“Cham­pi­onship dou­bles don’t just sud­denly turn up. Some sort of mo­men­tum has been built up be­fore they hap­pen: some­thing is right. The in­gre­di­ents are al­ready right and it’s just a ques­tion of the com­bi­na­tion.

“That year the en­gine was good. The aero­dy­nam­ics were good and the pack­ag­ing. We had a good spon­sor and we had good con­ti­nu­ity of per­son­nel. So we had ev­ery­thing that we needed.

“The car that year, the FW18, was quick out of the box. When it hit the road it was the most sub­limely beau­ti­ful thing that I have ever had to drive. It tted me like a glove.” “When I re­joined the team in late 1992 Nigel Mansell was off to the US and the spon­sors were not happy to see the world cham­pion go­ing over­seas. The com­mer­cial plat­form was un­sta­ble, so Frank and I sketched out a strat­egy and even­tu­ally brought Roth­mans on board.

“What made us so dom­i­nant in the 1990s was our fo­cus: Frank’s pres­sure on all of us to per­form to our best 365 days per year and the mo­ti­va­tion of the fan­tas­tic group of me­chan­ics, ma­chin­ists, PR, mar­ket­ing and de­sign peo­ple, who all un­der­stood we were there to do one thing. Win.”

“We got a bunch of good points early on in the sea­son, but there weren’t very many peo­ple tak­ing points away from Michael Schu­macher, so we couldn’t re­ally build up a huge lead.

“Through­out most of the year it was re­ally a tyre battle – who was choos­ing the tyres, Michael or me? At some races we man­aged to put the em­pha­sis on tyres we knew would blis­ter on the Fer­rari, and when it was Fer­rari’s turn they picked tyres they knew we couldn’t warm up.

“It got to the point where it looked as though they would win the cham­pi­onship eas­ily. We just fought back race af­ter race. I’ve al­ways been good as the un­der­dog.”

“The public sees only the top two per cent of the work un­der­taken at each grand prix. The plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion that rep­re­sents the vast ma­jor­ity of our ef­fort might not have the su­percial glam­our of the race week­end, but it is of fun­da­men­tal im­por­tance.

“That said, I don’t want to take any­thing away from Vil­leneuve. He got the job done in a man­ner that should not be di­luted by its con­tro­ver­sial con­clu­sion. He showed self­be­lief, and a ma­tu­rity that is the hall­mark of any cham­pion.

“The 1997 sea­son gave us our hard­est-fought set of ti­tles and our most val­ued. Only 1980, our rst cham­pi­onship with Alan Jones, of­fered the same emo­tional charge.”

Da­mon Hill:

Richard West (Wil­liams com­mer­cial direc­tor 1992-1996):

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