I find F1 one of the most tedious of sports. It now enjoys a unique blend of arrogance and complacency, attracts the worst people and benefits a handful of individuals financially while being at the forefront of the Great Project that is destruction of our planet.
Yet in there somewhere there is a Scalextric-loving 1970s child who feels enormously disappointed by where we are now as it was so much the opposite of all that when I was growing up. James Hunt, Jodie Schecter, Niki Lauda, Emmerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet, Mario Andretti. The Elf Tyrrell. The JPS Lotus, Marlboro McLaren.
In all of that, the story of Williams is the saddest of all. I read they did not have their car ready for testing this week, two days into the programme no car on the track. Still not even flown out of the Oxfordshire workshop.
I grew up in an era of crazy engineering heroes doing smart things with off the peg engines and making dangerously effective racing vehicles with underweight chassis and overweight drivers, all wrapped up in nil health and safety and an absurd level of acceptance of death and injury. Then they moved to a phase where massive turbos were added to big engines and vehicles shrouded in huge body systems with spoilers, skirts, adhesion fans (ground effect). This meant they went very fast stuck to the track, with turbo lag meaning that speed was at peak long after it had been asked for, and could sprint round a corner without having to worry about losing down force. All well until the body skins failed or they hit debris and skirts/fans/splitters broke - then the laws of physics took over and they became aircraft. They killed their drivers with alarming frequency.
After Gilles Villeneuve's death, turbos and ground effect disappeared from F1 and we went back to good old engineering. Williams, with the help of Honda and Renault, came to the fore under Patrick Head and Ross Braun. Head was the cavalier technical director who knew how to make things go faster (he was the crazy man behind Group B rally, such as the Metro XR4. Braun knew how to build that into a reliable vehicle which pit teams could replicate race after race. They attracted great drivers and through the mid 80s to the mid 90s they were invincible. From Mansell to Senna etc.
Then Senna died. The track, its corner, the condition of the vehicle's steering system, whatever. When he died the music died.
Montoya I don't think so. Compaq as sponsor. BMW as engine maker. all to shit.
Frank Williams became disengaged. Head retired. Braun to Ferrari. Non competitive cars. Can't attract the drivers. New team management. None of that Frank Williams aspergic passion.
Now they can't even get a car ready in the closed season.
It's a disgrace.
In Nov 2000 I was invited to an interview at the (then) new centre at Grove. It was for their Head of Legal role. Frank W and Patrick H interviewed me and then Patrick said "that's enough of all that" and I was taken down to have a look round the workshop. They were awash with money and really confident that the future was bright. It wasn't. total disaster.