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It has some­times been easy to over­look Pascal Wehrlein’s per­for­mances for Manor to­wards the back of the pack this year, but not in Aus­tria. The reign­ing DTM cham­pion bril­liantly qual­i­fied 12th and bat­tled the Wil­liams of Valt­teri Bot­tas on his way to 10th and his first F1 ca­reer point. He can be for­given for al­most start­ing out of po­si­tion…

It’s no fun any more,” they say. “Why can’t F1 be like the old days?” comes the re­frain. “Why do the teams take them­selves so se­ri­ously?” an­other, fre­quent lament.

Well I bring news, hot-foot from the F1 pad­dock: F1 is still fun, much of the time and plenty of teams – one in par­tic­u­lar – make tremen­dous ef­forts to put a smile on the faces of the of­ten tru­cu­lent media corps.

The “one in par­tic­u­lar” is Wil­liams and it will prob­a­bly come as lit­tle sur­prise to MN read­ers that this en­dur­ingly pop­u­lar or­gan­i­sa­tion has man­aged to main­tain both a sense of per­spec­tive and a sense of hu­mour through­out its long and sto­ried F1 ad­ven­ture.

The es­sen­tially phleg­matic char­ac­ter that runs through Wil­liams is at­trib­ut­able largely to its found­ing part­ners – Sirs Frank and Pa­trick – and many a press room elder still gets misty-eyed when re­call­ing these two in their pomp, run­ning rings around the op­po­si­tion on track, shoot­ing from the hip off it. Manna for any jour­nal­ist.

Things are a lit­tle more con­trolled these days, the buc­ca­neer­ing spirit some­what tamed by the need to keep the cor­po­rate part­ners smil­ing. But the flame still burns at Wil­liams, the twin­kle in the eye that has sus­tained it through tragedy and tri­umph still sparkles.

And there can be no bet­ter ev­i­dence of this than the sin­gu­lar treat Wil­liams of­fers to the pre­dom­i­nantly (though not ex­clu­sively) Bri­tish media who’ve at­tended its Aus­trian GP ‘pub night’ these past two years. Yes, for one night only (Fri­day), at the Aus­trian Grand Prix, Wil­liams turns its pad­dock hospi­tal­ity unit into… a pub, com­plete with swinging out­door sign sus­pended from the bal­cony.

This in­spired no­tion was dreamed up by the team’s mar­ket­ing de­part­ment ahead of the 2015 Aus­trian race. They re­alised that Aus­tria’s be­ing an em­phat­i­cally ru­ral grand prix – high in the hills, sur­rounded by moun­tain vil­lages, with no ob­vi­ous so­cial cen­tre of grav­ity – their mo­torhome rep­re­sented a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity to bring media clans to­gether and ex­tend a lit­tle good­will. ‘Soft power’, some might call it.

This be­ing F1, how­ever, a com­pet­i­tive el­e­ment to pro­ceed­ings was in­evitable, hence the in­clu­sion of a ‘quiz’, with the hacks gath­ered not merely to im­bibe and chat – but to pit wits and win! One year ago the as­sem­bled teams were largely rag-tag and ill­pre­pared. This time around, care­fully hand-picked pow­er­houses of knowl­edge were spliced to­gether: a muso with a statto; a film geek with a news junkie.

A lively af­fair soon be­came bois­ter­ous and, with the added fuel of tequila shots for those un­will­ing to play by house rules (step for­ward NBC com­men­ta­tor Will Bux­ton) it de­scended (as­cended?) rapidly to the Bac­cha­na­lian.

The golden rule of ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour’ pre­vents, alas, more de­tailed re­port­ing, but suf­fice to say it’s not of­ten you see a re­tired rac­ing driver stand on a chair, pull down his trousers and ‘twerk’; nei­ther is Claire Wil­liams of­ten known to blush.

More of the same next year, please. If we haven’t al­ready been barred…


Oc­to­ber 9 Novem­ber 12 Fe­bru­ary 18 April 1 April 22 May 13 May 20 June 10 June 24 July 1 July 15/16 July 29/30

JULY 6 2016

Pub at Wil­liams

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