Published hours before his team became one of only two to enter next year’s world championship, Brad Spurgeon’s interview with the F1 veteran is a touching portrait of a man who lives and breathes racing.
Sir Francis has not had it easy. He has been in Formula One for an incredible four decades now, starting out with a second-hand Brabham chassis in 1969, and it wasn’t until ten years later that his team scored their first win, with Clay Regazzoni taking the 1979 British Grand Prix.
His grassroots operation has seen its share of deaths, beginning with Piers Courage at Zandvoort and ending with Ayrton Senna at Imola. Williams himself has been confined to a wheelchair for 23 years since he flipped his rental car in France and crashed his spine into the roof.
None of this, however, has managed to cloud his essential devotion to motor racing:
I love what I do. All the people at Williams love what they do. Patrick [Head, Williams engineering director], my partner, feels exactly the same — he just wants to go racing, winning. We’re very upset with ourselves because we haven’t done any real winning for a very long time. It’s now about 10 years or something. And it’s very embarrassing, but we have to live with that. It’s our own fault, nobody else’s. And we have to get the sun to shine again soon.
That sun may shine on a forlorn landscape: talks between the Formula One Teams Association and Max Mosley’s FIA have broken down a few hours ago, leaving only Force India in Formula One from the current grid, apart from Williams.
Whatever happens, Williams will be at the British Grand Prix this weekend, the stage of their first victory thirty years ago. Barring supreme weirdness, they are not likely to mark the occasion with another win. Brawn GP driver Jenson Button enters his home Grand Prix as the runaway favorite, after winning six of the season’s seven races thus far.
Still, consider the sheer enthusiasm of the man for noisy, fast machinery:
One of the biggest thrills of my life was I went to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and I watched from 50 meters to the right side of the runway, the flight of four F-15c’s at takeoff, two by two, the second just five seconds after the first, and the noise! The ground shook! I was a guest of a colonel in the air force. I said, ‘Will you be using reheat?’ — which you call afterburn — and he said, ‘No, but if you want it, I can tell them.’ And I’ve never forgotten it. The noise! The power! And they got to the end and they went whoosh, it was almost vertical. Fantastic. Speed and noise.
Source: The New York Times, Photo Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images, ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images, Bryn Lennon/Getty Images