“Williams has a decency in its dealings”
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