What’s on this week
THE WILLIAMS FILM RELEASED earlier this year is not a simple narrative tale charting the Formula 1 team’s history – it’s much more than that. Williams is a powerful family story – one that Autosport (August 3 2017) said “arguably surpasses Senna
– the yardstick by which all F1-related documentaries are judged”.
The film is based on the book by Sir Frank Williams’ late wife, Lady Virginia ‘Ginny’ Williams, A Different Kind of Life, which was co-written by Pamela Cockerill. The audio recordings the pair made as they produced the book provided important insights for the film.
“The tapes only exist as I’m an absolute hoarder,” says Cockerill. “It’s a miracle that I didn’t record over them.”
Remembering the time she spent writing A Different Kind of Life with Ginny, who died in 2013, Cockerill recalls the ease with which it came together, thanks to her co-author’s energy and enthusiasm.
“We instantly had a rapport – we had a lot in common,” she says. “It was probably the book I enjoyed working on most, because she was such an articulate person and had such insight, not just into F1 and her husband, but also into her own behaviour.
Williams is no hagiography, not least towards Frank. But Cockerill explains that his behaviour did not diminish Ginny’s infatuation with her husband.
“Claire [Williams, deputy team principal of the F1 squad] herself said, ‘Well I wouldn’t have [accepted Frank’s behaviour]’, and that was my reaction,” says Cockerill.
“But for Ginny it didn’t come as a surprise. It was a part of him that she accepted and didn’t ever really think she would change – she loved the man underneath. That just carried on through thick and thin. She herself struggled to explain it.”
In Williams, Frank reveals that he has never read Ginny’s book, despite one of the motivations for writing it being Ginny’s hope that her husband would
understand her experiences.
“He’d never asked her what it was like, [but] I don’t think she was surprised that he didn’t [read the book],” Cockerill notes. “He’s very focused, tries to insulate himself from emotion, and it would be very hard to insulate yourself reading that book.
“He’s just interested about F1 – he’s not interested about any introspection at all. But the interesting thing is, in the scene in the film where Claire reads the final bit of the book to
Frank, he did actually well up.”
Cockerill sees similarities with Ginny in Claire, who moved into her current role with the Williams team ahead of the 2013 season: “Claire is very much cast in her mother’s mould. She’s very strong, likeable, approachable – there’s no side to her at all – she’s down to earth. I was amazed to meet her because I felt such a link.”
A Different Kind of Life was published in 1991 and there was talk then of it becoming a film, but Cockerill says that Ginny resisted such a move.
“There were film companies interested,” she explains. “It would have been made into a dramatisation. Ginny said no because of the reception to the book – some of the tabloids focused on big, lurid headlines.”
Cockerill, who is delighted with the film, thinks Ginny would have shared that view. “Morgan Matthews [Williams director] has done an absolutely fantastic job,” she says. “It’s magnificent and I’m sure it’s going to win awards – it’s very deserving.
“Ginny would be very pleased with the film, I think it was very true to her and her thoughts.”
Ginny Williams collects the constructor’s trophy at the 1986 British Grand Prix on behalf of her husband
Pamela Cockerill co-wrote the book A Different Kind of Life