Frank Williams on Todt, Mosley, Button…and Everything!

Negative CamberCorrespondent INovember 6, 2009

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 31:  New F.I.A. President Jean Todt is interviewed in the pitlane before qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit on October 31, 2009 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Sir Frank Williams has been the recipient of my praise for many years now and while I don’t always agree with his “con” position to everyone’s “pro,” I certainly can appreciate the logic applied in most cases.

Williams seems to me to be a man of character, integrity and decorum, but I suspect there is a rapier wit behind the all-very-British exterior. The interview at Arabian Business seems to bear that out.

Williams has never been one to mince words regarding issues that involve F1 and as one of the longest privateers in the business; he shouldn’t.

What’s most interesting is his willingness to discuss topics that are otherwise taboo in F1 circles and certainly to discuss them in the detail and candor that Williams does:

On Michael Schumacher’s return to F1: “Not a chance. No.”

On ex-Ferrari-boss-turned-FIA president Jean Todt: “He was a very difficult character. Very hard to get on with.”

On former president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Max Mosley: “Max is seriously unfairly clever.”

On having an independent team: “Being independent means lots of things, not just not having enough money.”

And on who is the fastest driver today: “Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel.”
No conversation about aerodynamics can be fully completed without the mention of Adrian Newey and as a former employee of Williams, there is little doubt that his prowess with pencil and paper is well knows:

“There is a man who works in Formula One at the moment, he works for Red Bull, called Adrian Newey. When it comes to where the air goes around the car, he is a magician. He just understands it.

He has a brilliant understanding of aerodynamics. He was with us for about eight years, and then McLaren pinched him for a great deal of money. Now he is getting even richer, but he deserves it, at Red Bull.

“I don’t know when his contract finishes. Everyone is dying to know. But the Red Bull man is spending a great deal of money, his own money, and I think he is happy there unfortunately,” he chuckles.

It is also intriguing that Williams seemed to know the fate of Toyota as the interview took place over the Abu Dhabi race weekend well prior to the Japanese car makers announcement.

“There is certainly one manufacturer going, and Honda has already gone. The next, we think, will be Toyota—although I don’t know, I am only surmising.

"Toyota doesn’t share their business dealings with Williams. They’ve had such poor results really for years. I imagine they’ll withdraw sooner rather than later,” he says.

The intriguing part of the interview for me was his comments on new FIA president Jean Todt, as well as the former president Max Mosley. Todt first:

“I must try to be a diplomat here. He ran Ferrari for a long time. He was very successful. His methods weren’t methods that we would use. But he delivered. He was then a difficult character. Very hard to get on with.

"Very clever, don’t misunderstand me, he did a fantastic job for Ferrari. And he had a brilliant driver with Schumacher. But hard man, hard worker, long career in motorsport.

Now that he is in the presidential role, and I met him recently, I think he has taken some charm lessons. I mean that in the right way. I think he is going to try to be a different character, with a more paternal view of Formula One generally.”

But what about the famed Ferrari Red Rule that always goes Ferrari’s way?

“I imagine he will know everyone is watching out for that, so he will be behaving himself. He’ll soon hear about it from the teams if we think there is a bias. And frankly I think he will be very straightforward about it all.”

And what of Mosley?

“Always mixed feelings about Max. Max is seriously unfairly clever. His father was brilliant politician in his day, despite the fact his views were unusual, to say it charitably. Max inherited all of his brainpower and his ruthlessness.

"He was almost impossible to beat in any argument, legal or otherwise. His greatest contribution to F1 was safety.

"When three drivers were killed in 18 months, including Ayrton Senna, he shook F1 by the head and by the tail. He made us make much stronger cars, and they have been very safe since.”

With over 30 years in motor sport, Williams knows a fast driver when he sees one and awkwardly the question was put to him, “who is the fastest driver?”

That’s never an easy question for anyone to answer and as a team owner you have to measure your words—especially being a British team owner with a newly crowned British F1 champion.

“Jenson is very gifted. He a terrific example of one of the guys who have a natural gift for going fast. When Jenson is driving, the car doesn’t seem to slide. Michael Schumacher was much more physical.

"The trick is, you’ve got to be a great racing driver and you’ve got to be a great judge of who’s going to have the best F1 car next season, or two seasons out. Michael was always good at that.”

It’s not hard to see that Williams believes Button is a competent driver but it has more to do with the right car and time than pure pace. He suggests that Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel or McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton hold the coveted place as the fastest drivers on the grid.

Williams has always remained driver-neutral over the years suggesting that the most important part of is the car. That sentiment may be something he relies heavily on in 2010 as he is losing both 2009 drivers for veteran Rubens Barrichello and rookie Nico Hulkenberg.

HE may also need to find that granular presence of patience as he contends with the new Cosworth engine that has not been tired and tested in anger.

With all these challenges, I suspect Sir Frank Williams is just the right man to deal with them—he always has been before.

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