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Jonny Williams’ Ten Favourite WilliamsF1 GPs

I’ve known Jonathan Williams for most of his life; indeed, here’s a pic I took of him with his Dad, sister and Ralt-Honda’s Dr Jonathan Palmer at the 1983 Thruxton Easter Monday F2 meeting. (What happened to THAT race? We used to LOVE Easter Monday Thruxton. What an atmosphere!) Jonny has always been, and is today, a rock-solid racer – by which I mean that he’s never been interested in the glamour or the glitz or the money or the status but instead has loved the sport and its people and its heritage with a genuine passion. That wonderful trait may have cost him a little in terms of family politics but for my money he is an expert who can talk motor racing 24/7 if he feels so inclined. Like his Dad, he’s a stickler for detail; like his Mum, he genuinely cares about people and about what is right. And, like all true racers, he isn’t swayed by #TRENDS or #TODAY’S STARS. He makes up his own mind; he forms his opinions on what he sees and what he knows – not on what social media tells him.

Thus his respect for Jacques Villeneuve and Pastor Maldonado; thus his friendship with Juan Pablo Montoya. Thus his perception of young driving talent and team priorities when he was working closely with iSport and Supernova. So what if he flies in the face of popular opinion? Jonny has his own mind – and he uses it well.

So we were chatting the other day, as we do, and we began to talk about some of the best of Williams days. I was stunned by Jonny’s eloquence and historical recollection. I was stunned by the word-pictures he was quickly able to draft.

I decided that we should schedule another chat about the same subject – and that I should film it for posterity. Not for instant clickbait but for the people out there who love racing and racing drivers and who live in awe of what is achievable.

A big thankyou to AP Archive for their wonderful footage from Watkins Glen, 1980, and to our friends Peder Coerts and Filmcollectief for the stunning Zandvoort, 1979, paddock video shots. Very little of this footage has been seen before – whichmakes me wonder how much more 8mm there might be out there, shot by enthusiasts at the time?  If you have anything pre-1981, please let us know in the comments section below.

I’d also like to thank the outstanding Peter Nygaard (right), who took many of the photographs. I counsel you to visit his Grand Prix Photo website on the GP Photo widget here and to peruse his stunning body of work. I should add that Peter is also a major Jim Clark fan 🙂 The shot on the GP Photo widget, incidentally, is from Monza, 1963, and I think that’s Geki Russo in the background. Geki, sadly, would be one of the three drivers to lose his life at Caserta in that catastrophic F3 race in 1967. And that’s the very elegant Geoffrey Charles of The Times next to Jim in the sea-island cotton long-sleeved polo shirt. Note, too, how nicely-ironed are Jim’s blue Dunlop overalls.

Anyway, moving swiftly back to today, here is the WilliamsF1 list, from ten down to one, of the races selected by Jonny:

A star is born

…and made

2013 Indy Lights HoustonAll racing drivers work hard – some harder than others.  Gabby Chaves was only 15 when he started to win Formula BMW races and from there the only way was up. Thing was, he didn’t have the funding for really competitive drives in really competitive categories.  He raced in Italian F3 (where he was Rookie of the Year); but he struggled in GP3. Yet another karting prodigy looked as though he was about to fade away.

Instead, Gabby at 17 years of age dug deep and re-booted in America, first in Star Mazda, then in Indy Lights. He worked at his driving – he worked hard at school. And he and his Mum door-knocked the sponsors. You can sell more in the States; people listen if you have something to sell (or so they kept telling themselves).

They found a budget. He won races last year with Sam Schmidt Motorsports; he was quick on both ovals and road courses. For 2014, though, despite that success, he had less sponsorship to wield. He stayed in Indy Lights. He signed with a smaller team – Belardi. Drivers he’d beaten in Lights (Carlos Munoz, Jack Hawksworth) progressed with early distinction to IndyCar. New talent arrived from all quarters – Matt Brabham (Australia/USA), Jack Harvey (UK) and the GP2 race winner, Luiz Razia (Br). It was a gamble. Could Gabby, now 20, continue his momentum with a less-recognised team in what was now becoming an ultra-competitive category?

It’s early days, but I think the answer is going to be yes. I think Gabby is going to become a major star. He took the pole at St Pete and finished second there to Andretti’s talented young star, Zach Veach. At Long Beach, last weekend, he qualified second and won the race from the front. I spoke to him on the Tuesday about that win and what it’s been like switching teams and facing the powerful new opposition. His enthusiasm, as you’ll see in this video, is infectious – as is his passion for racing.

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