…chance doesn't exist; there's always a cause and a reason for everything – Elahi

Archive for the tag “Williams”

Mexican Memories

I can’t recall any other occasion in F1 history when the delineations have been so clear: the three lives of the Circuit Hermanos Rodriguez (1962-1970; 1986-1992; 2015-) encapsulate F1 eras so visually different, so technically diverse, that it’s as if…as if they each belong to their own lifetimes. So it was that I met my old friend, Rudy Alcocer, upon arrival in Mexico City. I first met him in 1986, when I was Sponsorship Manager for Williams, but he was truly “my man in Mexico” when I was managing the team in 1991 and 1992. We won both of those races, with our one-two in 1992 remaining one of the best days of my racing life. (Highlights of that race can be seen on

And so, a few days ago, it was time to meet Rudy again – and to re-live those times.

Chatting with Paddy

It’s always a pleasure to sit down and talk motor racing with Patrick “Paddy” Lowe. We first met at Williams in about 1990 and I’ve been a fan ever since….ever since the day he pointed to the much-moaned-about cooling towers hard by the Williams Didcot factory and said, “I have a lot of respect for those towers. Did you know that they are a part of the most efficient coal-to-electricity station in England? I find them very inspiring…”  Anyone who is that grounded deserves to win F1 races, let alone run a major engineering team – and so it proved with Paddy. First that brilliant FW14B-Renault at Williams, then wins and championships at McLaren.  Now, if you please, he starts 2014 as the new Executive Director (Technical) of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team. We chatted recently between test days at Jerez.


Watching from La Rascasse (Part 2)

In Part 2 of Watching from La Rascasse, we look at some of the other drivers who were out on Thursday afternoon at Monaco.  Sadly there was no Romain Grosjean when we were camera-ready:  by then, he had hit the Ste Devote guard-rail.

Paul Di Resta (below, top) looked extremely good here, with a decisively-early approach, a clean rotation from a stable mid-corner and an effectively clean exit.  Adrian Sutil (below, bottom) was all of that but a shade wider, and thus a shade more conservative, on his approach. Both drivers looked excellent; the difference between them was smaller than the difference between the Mercedes boys.Dir

SutilFor all his cool headgear, Jean-Eric Vergne (below,top) is much more Jean-Pierre Jarier than he is Francois Cevert.  A wide, soft approach. Lots of aggression with the brakes, the steering and the release of same.  Lots of car-control, of course, but none of the straight lines that typified Francois, particularly in 1973.  Daniel Ricciardo (below,bottom) exhibited a slightly shorter corner and more seamless transitions.  Like McLaren, Toro Rosso have two “long corner” (but very skilful, very spectacular) drivers.JEV2

RicPastor Maldonado, as stated earlier, was almost scary to watch at Rascasse, if only because his Alesi-like turn-in (and feel) leaves him absolutely no margin at all in terms of the inside rear and the apex. With Grosjean, you’re always thinking “exit oversteer”;  with Pastor (below, top) it’s “early commitment”.  He looked knife-sharp from where I sat – and up at Casino Square, where he was blindingly late on the brakes, he was jaw-droppingly fearless – the more so because the Williams is still a difficult car.  This was the best Pastor has looked so far this year.  Valtteri (below, bottom), by contrast, was for me a bit disappointing – if only because one’s expectations are always so high with this guy. A relatively wide and frequently brake-locked approach was compromised by minimum speeds too high by far:  the back end would judder out, Walter would have to lift, opposite lock would be applied…and finally he was out of there. It was uncomfortable to watch and probably not much fun to execute.  I’m sure it’ll be better by Sunday…MAL

BOTSauber’s pair, by contrast, were surprisingly different from one another.  Nico Hulkenberg (below, top) had more initial steering input than, say, Romain Grosjean, and a longer corner than Daniel Ricciardo.  He played with the throttle early and, like Alonso, always gave himself a touch of oversteer before  main rotation just beyond this photograph.  He gives the impression, in other words, of asking quite a lot from the tyres and, of course, from the car.  Esteban Gutierrez (below, bottom) was for me probably the most surprising driver of  the session.  He was neat, composed, early into the corner, and displayed lots of good handwork and mid-corner patience.  He wasn’t the quickest guy out there, of course, but this was a good way to start a Monaco weekend.  From here he has a useful platform from which to build.HUL

GUTJules Bianchi (below, top) was much tighter on approach than Max Chilton (below, bottom); indeed, Jules was as early, and as rhythmic with his hand- and footwork, as Paul Di Resta.  Despite that sort of talent alongside him, Max Chilton has nonethless chosen to go the long-corner way. Yes, it leaves him more margin for error, particularly on a circuit like Monaco;  no, it isn’t as efficient.BIA

CHII couldn’t see much difference between the two Caterham drivers, Charles Pic (below, top) and Guido van der Garde (below, bottom).  Charles was pretty neat and tidy through the fourth-gear esses in Malaysia but here he was definitely giving himself a nice, soft corner entry with plenty of initial steering input.  Likewise Guido, which must be a bit frustrating for the engineers.PicJEV

Scalabroni and the Coanda effect

Thanks for all the kind comments about the Enrique Scalabroni ground effect videos.  Enrique has asked me to emphasise that his demonstrations are purely physical, not mathematical, and that they are designed to be simple explanations of what are obviously complicated subjects. Now let’s have a look at the much-celebrated Coanda effect – first discovered by the Romanian aerodynamicist, Henri Coanda.

The Spoon Test

I was impressed by Enrique Scalabroni from the first day I met him – at Williams, in 1985.  He’d turn up every morning in a local cab and always leave late at night – also in a local cab.

“Enrique.  What’s with the cab?”

“I don’t drive.  I have too many things going on in my head to trust myself behind the wheel.  I’m always thinking about something.  I can’t help it…”

Enrique helped Patrick Head re-design the back end of the Williams FW10-Honda that cleaned up the final races of that 1985 season;  and he would go on to play an integral role in the success of the FW11/11B.  Moving to Ferrari in late 1989, he transformed the John Barnard car into a glorious pace-setter.

Enrique has one of the most fertile brains of any racing person I’ve ever met.  If he’s not designing a new electric road car, he’s re-visiting the hang-glider or designing windmills.

And he has the most wonderful touch.  His brother is a cartoonist for Disney – and you can see that family talent in Enrique’s hand.  I asked him to sketch as he spoke because I love to see creative expression like this – especially if it’s orientated towards Formula One.



Why Sir Frank is Sir Frank…

At the House of Lords reception for Sir Frank Williams on November 28 plenty of people paid fitting tribute the great man.  He is “passionate” about his chosen profession.  He is “a true ambassador” of British motor sport.  “His dedication knows no bounds”.

All true.  Very true.

What do those words really mean, however?  What is their context?  What lies behind them?

I thought the following extract from a February, 1971, edition of Autosport might add a little texture to today’s image of Sir Frank Williams.  It is the Formula 2 Temporada series in South America (Bogota, Colombia, to be precise).  F1 drivers like Graham Hill, Henri Pescarolo and Jo Siffert are competing.  And everyone, as ever, is right on the limit….

“For some, the four clear days between races provided time to relax,” wrote Paul Watson.  “but for others there had been little time for enjoyment.  Immediately following the first Colombian GP, Frank Williams had hot-footed it back to England, carrying with him the two March chassis as hand baggage (!) and with an order list from other drivers as long as your arm.

“Williams, who has a reputation for getting things done smartly, was on March’s doorstep by Tuesday morning and back on a plane for Bogota by Wednesday so that he arrived back in Colombia by Thursday night, much to Derek Bell’s astonishment!  The two March chassis had been repaired and strengthened where they were broken, this being where the front of the monocoque joins the bulkhead.  As the Bogota series was very much a  development programme for Williams, he had fitted aluminium braces to the top and bottom of Pescarolo’s bulkhead while Bell’s had been left without, to find out whether any permanent additional strength will be needed for future races.

“Williams took with him orders for a great many other spares and these were supposed to be sent in time for practice on Feb 12.  However, as is often the case when freight has to change planes, it got lost, so that all the spares Natalie Goodwin had been waiting for to repair Cyd Williams’ car never arrived.  Neither did Jurg Dubler’s gearbox parts, the Eifelland tyres and a number of other items.  However the Kyalami-spec 4000 ft fuel metering units did arrive in Frank Williams’ pocket and these were duly distributed to Stommelen, Hannelore Werner and Brian Cullen, all of whom had suffered fluffy engines in the previous race due to the use of standard, sea-level cams.  It had been hoped to build up some special 8000ft cams at Felday Engineering, but Mac Daghorn just hadn’t had enough time to get this done…”

For the record, Frank’s two March 712Ms qualified third (Stommelen) and ninth (Bell) and finished second and third in the race (in that order).

Just another weekend in the life of the racer that is Sir Frank.


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