Features - Interview

JULY 13, 2010

Frank Williams: Adam's the man!

Sir Frank Williams
© The Cahier Archive

The British GP marked the 31st anniversary of Williams Grand Prix Engineering's first F1 win. There was no repeat on Sunday but fifth place from Rubens Barrichello has signalled an upturn in form. Sir Frank chose the weekend to hand over the chairmanship to Adam Parr, but insists that thoughts of retirement are not in his mind...

The British Grand Prix at Silverstone was the 31st anniversary of Williams Grand Prix Engineering's first F1 win, with Clay Regazzoni in the FW07, after team mate Alan Jones took pole position in 1979 and led, but retired. There was no repeat on Sunday but fifth place from Rubens Barrichello immediately after the Brazilian's fourth in Valencia, has signalled an upturn in form.

Sir Frank, now 68, had his incapacitating accident returning from a test session at Paul Ricard seven years later. He chose the British Grand Prix to hand over the chairmanship of Williams to Adam Parr, but insists that thoughts of stepping down or retiring are not in his mind. He remains team principal.

Williams: I'm very mindful that Adam comes from a city background and has a very strong education in the correct legal management of British companies. It should be apparent that given my background versus Adam's, the correct person to be chairman of Williams is Adam. It suits me just fine and clearly the company, we hope, has a very strong future. It will go on in F1 for many years, hopefully decades, and it's my job and duty to (co-owner) Patrick (Head), the company and everyone who works for it, to leave in order over the long-term a properly run company.

Q: With the costs involved, is it not desirable to get some big global name involved with Williams?

Williams: We half got married to BMW you could say, but it never worked out. There's a difference between an English brain and attitude and a German one. We didn't hit it off unfortunately, which is a shame. One day, some suitable partner may turn up but we are not out there actively looking. We very much enjoy and value our independence and I can't emphasise strongly enough - and I'm not just being nice to Adam - but he's most definitely the right man, in my opinion, to carry the company forward when I do eventually leave the company. And Patrick supports that strongly too.

Q: Williams has not won a championship since 1997. Do you still think it's possible?

Williams: I do. Yes. The trick as always, for every team, is to have the best engine with the best chassis and best drivers. The difficult part is putting all three together at the same time. It's very difficult but it's not impossible.

Q: You once said you would know when the time was right to step back. Is this in any way stepping back?

Williams: Not at all. The only thing I ever want to do until I pop my clogs is to come to races and be part of the company. I enjoy it enormously and there is no reason whatsoever to even begin to think about that. It's not in my mind. I even think I'm still young which is stupid, I know, but... I want to emphasise very strongly that this is absolutely not my notice of impending retirement. I love F1, have a strong involvement in the company still, go to work every day and I've not the slightest intention, it hasn't crossed my mind, what I'm going to do and when I'm going to retire. I'm just not interested.

Q: So you are still going to go to races?

Williams: Yes. The ones I don't go to are the overseas ones because I find long distance travel quite uncomfortable.

Q: What is the thinking behind the timing of the announcement?

Williams: Time is evolving, Adam has been with us several years now and Patrick and I are nearing the end of being very, very active in the company. There's a few more years yet but early planning is the best planning.

Q: Is this effectively an insurance policy then, against things that might happen?

Williams: No. Adam is becoming the day to day controller along with the board of Williams because he is the most appropriate person we can find to run that side of things correctly.

Q: Is there a sense of F1 going through a changing of the guard - men like yourself and Ron Dennis, who made F1 what it is, handing over to the younger set?

Williams: I know I've got grey hair I didn't have 10 years ago, but change is endless.

Q: So do you feel it is now time for the younger guys to step up to the plate?

Williams: I can truthfully say that I don't think my life will change one little bit.

Q: How do you both see the heath of F1 right now?

Williams: Adam will tell you that I'm not irresponsible but let's say careless in my approach to business and it never crossed my mind, here last year for instance, that F1 was on the brink. I don't think it was and it never crossed my mind that it would go down the tubes.