Legendary Story of Sir Frank Williams and His Formula One Race Team
Sir Frank Williams's long career in Formula One has had many highs and lows. Maurice Hamilton charts that history with personal stories from those most closely involved.
In many ways Williams is an intriguing book to review. At first sight it is simply a chronicle of Frank Williams involvement with Grand Prix motor racing; which is why it will be found in the Sports section of most book sellers. But it is much more.
Personal Biographies and Affectionate Memories
At another level it is a personal biography of some of the key players associated with Williams Grand Prix Engineering and especially Sir Frank Williams. Sir Frank is clearly well regarded by those that have worked closely with him over more than 40 years in motor racing.
Many of the people who started their careers at Williams have gone on to great things. Amongst those is Ross Brawn who won the 2010 F1 Championships in his first year as the owner of the Brawn GP team. So it is also the story of Formula 1 motor racing, the people and their relationships.
Even some of those who perhaps had a difficult time at Williams talk of the team and its culture with affection. Everyone seems to appreciate that Williams is first and foremost a racing team. The business aspects have always been directed towards the on track performance of the team and they have not been distracted by other, more peripheral, business activities.
Business Lessons and Forward Looking Culture
That clear sense of purpose and the long-standing culture at Williams Grand Prix Engineering is a lesson to any business. There is a good case for putting Maurice Hamilton’s Williams in the business section.
Formula One is populated with big egos due the competitive nature of the sport, and of the business. But it is clear from Williams that it also a community driven by a passion. Like any group or family battles will break out and may well get very personal and bitter as with Senna and Prost. The Williams team have had their share of such battles but they retain so much goodwill because they are seen as motor racing enthusiasts to the core.
As in Rudyard Kipling’s poem If the Williams team culture is to treat “ those imposters ... Triumph and Disaster” just the same. Williams are always looking forward; learning from failure and looking to improve on success. They enjoy their victories but that is the past. The future, the next race is what is important not who is to blame for a problem. Understand , address the failure and move on.
Although Williams Grand Prix Engineering is seen as Sir Frank Williams creation the contribution of Patrick Head and the relationship between the two men is critical to their achievements. They have very clear roles, Head is the engineer and Williams the commercial visionary and negotiator but both are racers. They play to their strengths and avoid stepping on each other’s toes which so often confuses staff and undermines effective achievement of objectives. There is one strategy and objective.
So in Williams there are valuable business lessons and the need for clear purpose, well defined roles and recognition of everyone’s contribution is clearly illustrated.
The Author Allows Personalities to Show
Maurice Hamilton links the personal stories that show the human side of Williams and lets them make the story live. Williams is very much “The legendary story of Frank Williams and his F1 team in their own words”. Hamilton’s more than 30 years covering Formula 1 for the BBC and major newspapers has given him unprecedented access. As a good writer he lets the personalities of his extensive cast of players tell the story for which he provides the structure and history
An excellent book for motor racing fans and business managers alike.
Williams, In Their Own Words (2009, ISBN: 978-0-0919-3267-1) by Maurice Hamilton is published in hardback by Ebury Press (part of Random House) at £20.
First appeared on Suite101