Frank Williams and 1996 preview

Frank Williams is Optimistic by Andrew Frankl, European Bureau Chief, The Auto Channel Frank Williams, owner of the highly successful Formula One racing team was once the fittest man in England. Jogging every day, he was tall, lean and very...

Frank Williams is Optimistic

by Andrew Frankl, European Bureau Chief, The Auto Channel

Frank Williams, owner of the highly successful Formula One racing team was once the fittest man in England. Jogging every day, he was tall, lean and very hard-working. He built a team with sheer hard work, and by 1980 his driver Jones became world champion ahead of Nelson Piquet and Carlos Reutemann. The Finn Keke Rosberg was world champion in a Williams two years later. The team was clearly one of the front runners in Grand Prix racing with stars such as Nigel Mansell also adding to the number of victories.

Everything going fine until tragedy struck. Leaving a test session at the Le Castellet track in the South of France, Frank was in a hire-car, making a dash for the airport. He made a mistake on one of the corners and crashed. Had it not been for the rapid reactions of his passenger and collegue Peter Windsor he probably would have died.

As it is he was left totally paralyzed from the neck down and most people expected him to leave the sport. They did not know Frank. Not only did he come back, he is very much in charge to this day. He flies to all the races and with his fellow director and technical guru Patrick Head decides on everything from the shape of the cars to who the drivers should be.

The latter is of particular interest to Auto channel readers in North America as the new boy on the block is none other than Indy champion Jacques Villeneuve. Son of the legendary Gilles, the young French-Canadian is already making waves. During testing in Portugal during the winter he has been impressively quick and the team rate him very highly.

Both Frank and Patrick feel that they have a potential world champion in Damon Hill who is staying for another year in the Williams-Renault. After all he was racing karts at 10 and at the age of 20 was living and racing in Japan. He is not easily intimated and if Schumacher tries his usual scare tactics on him he is in for a big surprise.

The Williams bosses don't for a minute believe Schumacher's utterings about how he has no chance of winning in 1996 apart from the odd race. They are expecting Berger and Alesi in the Benetton to be quick. but they don't for the time being fear a McLaren revival.

On paper Williams have an excellent chance of winning the world championship. They certainly have the best car and two very good drivers. There are, however, a number of questions.

First, can Damon get Hill grow up mentally, can he learn to take the strain? In '95 he was totally demoralized by Schumacher, something he did not get out of his system until the last race in Adelaide.

Second, can Villeneuve be as quick during the races as he has been during testing?

Third, can the Williams mechanics finally learn to change tyres and refuel as quickly as their rivals in the Benetton team? Will Williams make the same mistake he made in 1986 when he allowed team-mates Mansell and Piquet to race each other, take points from each other, and Prost to snatch the championship from under their noses?

We won't know the answer until next October. There will, however, be indications on March 10, in Melbourne, Australia when the green light goes on for the first time in 1996. The Auto channel will be there reporting the events as they happen.

Don't miss it! http://www.the-autochannel.com/

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Nigel Mansell , Damon Hill , Nelson Piquet , Patrick Head , Keke Rosberg , Frank Williams
Teams McLaren , Williams , Benetton