Friday 2nd June 2017 was the day on the calendar that Williams had pencilled in to organise a birthday party – an opportunity to engage with the fans, throw open the doors to Silverstone for the day, and invite us all in to share the experience with them as they celebrated their 40th anniversary. Sarah Merritt attended with some full access to bring you the full story and bumper photo album.
The Williams F1 Team, via social media, invited everybody to register with them, and in return, receive a free ticket to the event, and at conception, they must have wondered just how many people would respond to the opportunity to take a Friday off work in June and come along.
I’m sure they were pleased as punch, if not even surprised, by the amount of registration responses they received, because as the day approached, that magic number stood at 50,000!
Mainly sunny, with only a light sprinkling of rain, yesterday’s #Williams40 event saw the car parks full and the grandstands from Abbey, along the International Pit Straight, and down to Club Corner packed with fans of various ages, ranging from die-hard fans to first time attendees who couldn’t normally stretch to the price of a British Grand Prix ticket, experiencing their first visit to Silverstone.
There were food stands, entertainment, merchandise stalls, but most of all, there was a bubbling atmosphere! The fans were excited to seen the range of cars on track, and for those lucky applicants, the chance to go on one of three pit lane walkabouts that were scheduled throughout the day.
— Silverstone (@SilverstoneUK) June 2, 2017
Sky’s David Croft aka Crofty was on hand to compere the event over the tannoy and via the video screens, and catch up with the wealth of ex-Williams drivers who had come out to join the celebrations.
Within the garage under the iconic Silverstone wing stood a line of cars – an evolution from the very beginning with Patrick Neve’s March 761/7 from 40 years ago (which Martin Brundle took out on track), right up to this year’s current F1 car, the FW40. Over the course of the day, many of these cars took to the track, and there was also the Le Mans winning BMW V12 LMR, as well as examples of the collaborations that Williams Advanced Engineering undertake with the Jaguar Formula E car, the Aston Martin RapidE, and the Jaguar C-X75 that we saw racing through the streets in the Bond Film, Spectre.
Here’s the full listing of the cars present, in the order they stood in the garage:
- March 761/7 (1977) – Patrick Neve
- Williams-Ford FW06 (1978/79) – Alan Jones
- Williams-Ford FW07 (1979) – Alan Jones/Clay Regazzoni
- Williams-Ford FW07B (1980) – Alan Jones/Carlos Reutemann
- Williams-Honda FW10 (1985) – Keke Rosberg/Nigel Mansell
- Williams-Honda FW11 (1986) – Nelson Piquet/Nigel Mansell
- Williams-Renault FW18 (1996) – Damon Hill/Jacques Villeneuve
- Williams-Renault FW19 (1997) – Jacques Villeneuve/Heinz-Harold Frentzen
- BMW V12 LMR (1999) – Joachim Winkelhock/Pierluigi Martini/Yannick Dalmas
- Williams-BMW FW25 (2003) – Juan Pablo Montoya/Ralf Schumacher
- Williams-Renault FW34 (2012) – Pastor Maldonado/Bruno Senna
- William Advanced Engineering – Jaguar Racing I-Type (2016/17) – Adam Carroll/Mitch Evans
- William Advanced Engineering – Aston Martin RapidE (electric)
- William Advanced Engineering – Jaguar C-X75 hybrid used in the Bond Film, Spectre
- Williams-Ford FW08B (1982) – Keke Rosberg/Jacques Laffite
- Williams-Renault FW14B (1992) – Nigel Mansell/Riccardo Patrese
- Williams-Mercedes FW36 (2014) – Felipe Massa/Valtteri Bottas
- Williams- Mercedes FW40 (2017) – Felipe Massa/Lance Stroll
Being able to get up close and personal with the cars gave myself and the other guests and media a chance to look inside the cockpit of the cars and study the steering wheels, and also see the stars that the Williams team have always used to denote a pole, a win, and a second place. (You can read more about that here).
There was also a presence from Williams partners JCB, displaying a JCB 3CX in Williams livery, as well as taking to the track in a modified and incredibly loud JCB, capable of 96mph!
— WILLIAMS RACING (@WilliamsRacing) June 2, 2017
Felipe Massa took to the track in Keke Rosberg’s 6 wheel FW08B, and watching him sat in the “naked” car chatting to engineers served as a stark reminder of how the safety of the monocoque has been developed over the years – we could see Felipe’s feet on the pedals through the aluminium construction!
We asked Felipe how it felt taking the FW08B on track: “It’s just amazing – it was a great feeling to drive that car, and to feel the six wheels on the floor, and there was also more grip than I was expecting!”
However the highlight of the day for us was watching Dickie Stanford and the Williams Heritage team working on the iconic FW14B that we all remember Nigel Mansell driving to take the world Championship in 1992 – and which hasn’t run on track for the last 25 years.
We weren’t the only ones who thought that – it seemed everybody wanted to catch-up with “Red 5”!
When they first fired the car up in the garage, we have to admit to having goosebumps, and that only became more so once Karun Chandok took to the track. A moment of history in the making.
Here’s a video of that fire-up moment:
— Sarah Merritt (@Sareyware) June 2, 2017
You can find more photo’s and videos here.
It was a real privilege to see all of the ex-Williams drivers that had come along to be part of the day with Sir Frank and Claire, and fantastic to see them in the garage chatting to one another as well as team members including Paddy Lowe and Rob Smedley, and current drivers Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa, whilst looking at the cars that they themselves had driven. Amongst them were Keke Rosberg, Nico Rosberg, Mark Webber, Alex Wurz, Pastor Maldonado, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Riccardo Patrese, David Coulthard. I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone, such were the number around me!
We took the opportunity to ask a few of those present what they thought of the day, and the great efforts towards fan engagement that had been made!
Karun Chandok – Williams Heritage Driver:
“I think it’s amazing, and what Williams have achieved and done here today is just incredible. I can’t believe how many people are here, and it’s not even a race event. I’m very excited to be a part of it and part of the Williams Family.”
“I’ve got two amazing cars to drive today. Firstly, the Mansell, FW14B, which is our headline car for today. It is 25 years since Nigel’s world championship, and its most dominant win here at Silverstone, and that car hasn’t run since then.”
“I’m also driving the FW40, which is this year’s car, and it’s the first time that somebody outside of the race drivers and test drivers have driven a current year car, so it’s an enormous privilege.”
David Croft – “Crofty” – Sky Sports F1:
“Sarah, if you look into the grandstands at the moment, you’ll see that they are pretty much packed, in the sunshine, at Silverstone – that shows you how great this is! We’ve had to wait 40 years for Williams Racing to do this, but why not, and I love the fact that not only have Williams put something on for the fans, but the fans have responded as well. There would be no point in the sport opening itself up if the fans don’t want it, so it’s a two-way street on this one – build it and they will come. Well, Williams have built it, and they’ve come, and I love it. I feel delighted to be working on behalf of Williams today, and between the cars on track, I’ll be doing a few interviews, and hopefully, everyone is having a really good time, because Formula 1 should be fun, shouldn’t it? You’re smiling, aren’t you?!”
“Williams are the sort of team where, if you look at their driver line-up over the years, some of THE greatest drivers in the sport have all been Williams drivers. Even Martin Brundle was a Williams driver for one race! There is a huge amount of goodwill as it’s a team that exist to go racing, and we all love a bit of that – Brabham, Tyrell, McLaren when they started, Force India – it’s all about wanting to go racing, and it’s why we love these teams. Wouldn’t it be great if we could find some rules that said that teams like Williams could win some races without spending £250 million to do that? That will come eventually – Sean Bratches is coming along today, and Ross Brawn – Ross knows all about Williams because that’s where he started. Hopefully Sean will have a look around and think maybe he could do this sort of thing in the future. I, for one, hope there is a LOT more of this thing in the future, I really do.”
“Don’t forget that at the British Grand Prix, there will be some of these cars on the track parade, and tickets are still available as per my Silverstone Blog.”
Nico Rosberg – Current Formula 1 World Champion:
“It’s impressive, and it’s lovely to see how many people have come to watch today. That can only happen in the UK, as you guys are all so motorsport enthusiastic, which is great! That’s why all of us drivers love coming to the Silverstone Grand Prix as well, because we know there is so much support and so much interest.”
Felipe Massa – Current Williams F1 driver:
“I thinks it’s amazing to remember the 40 years and everything that Williams did, and to see a lot of people have come along. For me, it’s nice to be part of the history by being here. I am in my 4th year with Williams, so it’s really amazing to be part of this experience.”
Damon Hill – 1996 Formula 1 World Champion with Williams:
“I think it’s taken everybody by surprise really, to see the reaction to Williams’s contribution to Formula 1. They have an extraordinary history. There’s Williams, there’s McLaren, there’s Ferrari – only a few teams that have maintained this length, and Lotus would have been one of those but they are no longer around. Williams have been a very major force in the sport and also flown the flag for all these fans, which is why they are here today. Other teams do their own things in their own ways – they have events at Zandvoort for Verstappen, for example, and Red Bull do their events, and also there’s Goodwood, but we have never had, as far as I know, a team specific event like this, just purely for race team. What a great place to have it, at Silverstone, and to see all the cars lined up, an extraordinary evolution and exhibit of living, breathing museum pieces.”
Ross Brawn – Formula 1 Managing Director of Motorsports:
“For me, it’s an inspiration, because you come to an event like this and you see the enthusiasm of the fans, and you realise what latent interest and enthusiasm there is. In the past, people have never been given the opportunity, so you get an event like this and it just shows how much passion there is for Formula 1.”
So there you have it – a great day was had by all, and with Ross Brawn and Sean Bratches in attendance, and the embracing of such events by the fans clear to see, it has hopefully inspired other teams and Formula 1 management, as well as providing us all with a motorsport fix for the day.
So Happy 40th Birthday, Williams, and thank you for being trailblazers by inviting us all along to join you!