“Wil­liams has a de­cency in its deal­ings”

Motor Sport News - - Racing News - By Rob Lad­brook

Six­teen years since my last trip to Wil­liams for a driver an­nounce­ment and how much has changed.

In 2000, a moon-faced debu­tant called Jen­son But­ton was served up for the me­dia’s de­light and what good value he’s pro­vided since, in a topsy-turvy ca­reer that peaked with his 2009 driv­ers’ ti­tle. Along­side him, Ralf Schumacher. He was… less good.

This year’s hope­fuls, Valt­teri Bot­tas and Lance Stroll, are re­mark­ably com­pa­ra­ble: a bright F3-grad­u­ate rookie along­side an es­tab­lished ‘com­ing man’ who’s yet to score his first F1 win, but who’s surely ready to do so, given the right ma­chin­ery.

It sets you think­ing about the na­ture of per­ma­nence and change in F1, all the more so when there’s talk ev­ery­where of rein­ven­tion. A ma­jor reg­u­la­tion re­set im­mi­nent; Felipe Massa about to quit; But­ton ‘tak­ing a sab­bat­i­cal’. The Ec­cle­stone era pos­si­bly draw­ing to a close, af­ter the ar­rival of Liberty Me­dia and Mr Chase Carey. Then Ross Brawn set to re­turn to the arena in a new guise as some kind of over-arch­ing For­mula 1 ‘sport­ing di­rec­tor’. Mean­time, Mclaren, where Ron Dennis seems to have been shown the door.

It’s re­as­sur­ing, then, to en­counter a sense of continuity at Wil­liams, where, de­spite an ex­ten­sive in­ter­nal re­struc­ture in re­cent years, a recog­nis­able set of core val­ues still re­main: a cer­tain de­cency in their deal­ings, a deepseated rac­ing spirit, Bri­tish­ness to the bone. Much of that is at­trib­ut­able to Wil­liams still be­ing a fam­ily firm. Sir Frank, hap­pily out of hos­pi­tal af­ter a bout of pneu­mo­nia that has laid him low since Monza, re­mains team prin­ci­pal and his suc­ces­sion is se­cure in the form of daugh­ter Claire.

Back in 2000 she had yet to start work­ing for the team, de­spite hav­ing grown up be­ing in­fused daily with its essence; that would change a cou­ple of years later when she joined the team’s me­dia de­part­ment, ris­ing through the ranks to take on her cur­rent po­si­tion in 2013.

The blood­line con­tin­ues else­where. A day af­ter last Thurs­day’s ‘driver launch’ Wil­liams had or­gan­ised a rather ex­clu­sive re­union be­tween one Damon Hill and the FW18 that car­ried him to the 1996 world ti­tle. You can read about that chilly Sil­ver­stone ad­ven­ture in next month’s is­sue of MN’S sis­ter ti­tle F1 Rac­ing. Suf­fice to say it was a rare treat to be trans­ported back to the era of Wil­liams’ high­est pomp – those early- to mid-’90s years when they pro­duced a con­veyor-belt of cham­pi­ons.

A spec­tat­ing Jonathan Wil­liams – a more ‘back­stage’ mem­ber of the clan – glowed with quiet pride as he watched Damon’s im­mac­u­late racer scream past the pits, its Re­nault V10 at full lick.

“When you see these cars do­ing what they were built to do again, 20 years just fall away, don’t they…?” he pon­dered.

Fac­tory Fer­rari team AF Corse will re­turn to Bri­tish GT next sea­son for a full as­sault on the GT3 cham­pi­onship with sea­soned hands Dun­can Cameron and Matt Grif­fin.

The Ital­ian squad, which is owned by Amato Fer­rari, has en­tered a sin­gle Fer­rari 488 GT3 for works driver Grif­fin and ex­pe­ri­enced ama­teur driver Cameron. The team is also in talks to run a sec­ond 488 in the class next year.

For Grif­fin and Cameron, the deal marks their first full Bri­tish GT cam­paign since 2012, when they fin­ished fourth in the points. They have fought for

Lee is youngest cham­pion Cameron (l) and Grif­fin will re­turn Fac­tory AF Corse team will run 488

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