Williams’ have been at the top of sport for decades now. You have the two sisters who, when they turn up anyway, take women’s tennis to another level. Snooker also has it’s own Williams star in the shape of fellow Welshman and former Crucible champion Mark Williams. Of course, the Welsh rugby squad boasts one or two as well, but for that I have no care.
But one, now all to often overshadowed Williams name in sport is showing signs of resurgence; that of Frank Williams’ nine time Formula One Constructors Championship winning outfit.
Resurgence, you may think to be a strong word considering Williams’ comparatively poor 2010 Formula One campaign, that is when you think of their already acclaimed sixteen titles. But be aware, this now relatively small outfit on the grid has a rosy future ahead….
Well if things go their way.
There are no billion dollar sheikhs or international businesses behind this team. They are simply a well run British outfit, remaining competitive on a frugal budget and relying purely on the talents of their backroom staff.
And when you think of it like that, it is quite astonishing that Williams have been mixing it in qualy three of late, ahead of the Vijay Mallya funded Force India’s and more than matching the Russian oil driven Renault’s and now German conquered Brawn GP.
Indeed everything pointed to a disappointing campaign before the season began. The loss of Toyota power, and the return of the unpredictable Cosworth engine that had proved so unreliable with the team in 2006, all after BMW left Willams in the lurch to take over Sauber.
Only a positive driver line-up brought some hope.
Pension collecting Rubens Barrichello, officially crowned the fastest driver in the world by beating the Stig on Top Gear a few weeks ago, and young German driver (yes… another one) Nico Hulkenberg, who I can still remember tearing the A1 GP field apart in a series where all cars were equal.
But still the season’s early stages brought worrying signs, having failed to score regularly and struggling with development of a car that looked all to familiar to 2009’s design.
And Monte Carlo brought what was surely the teams lowest point in recent memory, as both Rubens and Nico crashed out in their updated cars, updates that were later revealed to be in short supply and then had to be re-developed. One step forward, two steps back was eerily muttered around the teams paddock.
But like seasons before, Williams collectively dug in and pulled together. Updates arrived and a resurgence began in Valencia as Rubens brought home a seasons best fourth place finish; ahead of both billionaire, FIA backed Ferrari’s.
Further points came at Silverstone and Williams looked good for more in Germany last weekend, but this time came unstuck in a race shrouded by the inexplicable debacle between Felipe Massa and Fernando ‘everyone of my teammates hate me’ Alonso.
So it may be lightyears behind the glory days of the eighties’ and their Alex Ferguson’esque domination of the nineties’, but Williams continue to cut it at the highest level on a stringent budget, against all the odds – even gaining ground on teams in the development race, purely on the talent of its back room team of Patrick Head, Ed Wood (what a name – Ed), Jon Tomlinson and Sam Michael.
Something for which they should be extremely proud.
So in the age of Formula One, where business rules (and Ferrari of course), Williams offer a glimpse back to the glory days of F1. A tight knit unit, working within their means and budget, with only talent and sheer determination still placing them at the right end of the grid.
They have outlasted and outclassed the manufacturing giants of Toyota, Honda, BMW and are more than matching the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault, on half their budget.
And who’s to say that more manufacturers won’t bow out at the end of this season.
So, when Formula One eventually returns to its glory days (Bernie permitting), of sheer engineerial talent amongst teams with motorsport as their heartbeat, there is no doubt who will be leading the way.
It is only a matter of time before this Williams rises back to the top of its sport, the question is, how long will they be made to wait.