The F1 Beyond the Grid podcast features Sir Patrick Head, who speaks on his involvement with Williams from the beginning in 1977 plus all the drivers he worked with and more.
The beginning of the Beyond the Grid podcast sees Head note that he does not spend a lot of time on F1 as it stands. He also stated that despite the result Williams earned at Hungary, they were assisted by the first corner incident at the front of the field.
Speaking on his alma mater, Head stated that as he was involved in Williams for so many years, it is disheartening to see them underperforming over the last decade but does think they are heading in the right direction now as they have a number of good people there.
He goes on to say that he doesn’t reflect on the past too much as if he does, he reflects on missed opportunities from then. Admits he did not really reflect on races won but was more interested in the development of the company as a whole.
Head then noted that he worked with some great people there – like Frank Dernie, Adrian Newey – and as a result, he reckons he only went to about half of the races or less even due to the high level of competent people in the team. He stated that he was much stronger on gearboxes and hardware, but did have some knowledge of aerodynamics.
As a result, in a nutshell, he was not that interested in being in the pit lane but more interested in the engineering side. He continues to say that he never favoured one driver over another within the team despite what some drivers felt. Head then talked about Nigel Mansell and the 1987 British GP, also stating that he was the most outstanding driver Williams had.
He admits Mansell was an unusual personality but was employed to drive cars as fast as he could and he did so at all times. Speaking of signing him in 1985, he was keen to have a driver who had driven using the Renault engine as Williams were going into their second full season with Honda power.
When Mansell compared and contrasted the two engines in a test at the end of 1984 (having left Lotus), he stated on what exactly needed to be done, Honda listened and went and got on with the improvements. He then goes on to talk in-depth about the Honda engine during the turbo era. He continues to talk about Honda and the logistics of communicating with them at the outset.
He continued to say that the Honda V6 F2 engine became the basis of their F1 engine. He did feel Honda were disloyal to them when they began supplying McLaren in 1988. He also stated that back in 1984 that Honda saw Williams in the most difficult of times as the Honda engine blew up so frequently.
Head then advised that Honda told Williams to keep Nelson Piquet and release Mansell and hire Satoru Nakajima. Also, Honda offered to carry on supplying engines to Williams, but the British F1 outfit did not want to play second fiddle to the “super-team” of McLaren – Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
He continues on to state that both he and Sir Frank Williams respected each other’s capabilities greatly, but that Williams did not know much about F1 engineering. Head could always forsee problem ahead for the team that Williams would not be aware of but that Williams was a very positive person. He admits to being a fairly robust character back in the day and admits he would interfere in Williams side of things more so than Sir Frank interfere with him.
He went on to say that Sir Frank applied his positive attitude in life to when he became a Paraplegic. He also states that he owes part of his life to his own late wife. Talks about when he received the call regarding Frank’s accident in 1986 and that they were advised that he would not survive the crash, however, his wife thought much differently.
Head continues talking about the continuation of the team after the accident. He stated that the 1986 season was the hardest of his career as he had to step up following the crash. He continues to talk about the relationship with Honda in 1986 including getting phone calls at 4:30 AM, advising to get on a plane to Japan and no would not be taken as an answer.
Speaking of which, he continued to discuss the same meetings in Japan, how Honda went about their business in such a disciplined way, comparing and contrasting them to Williams. He then continues talking about the team and in particular the drivers (1986 season) when he was in charge, advising he would try to be as fair as possible to both Piquet and Mansell. He states that he reckoned that Piquet thought Mansell would be a pushover.
He goes on to talk about Piquet wanting a meeting with Sir Frank regarding treatment within the team. He goes on to talk about the 1986 Adelaide GP, tyre failures, and calling Piquet into the pits. He advised Piquet was fine despite losing the title. Head stated he did not involve himself that much in the Mansell and Piquet issues that season but would not have been massively tolerant either.
He stated it did get quite acrimonious between the two but he involved himself by endeavouring to ensure both had equal equipment. Head then recalled a brilliant story about Piquet, Mansell, team radio and tyres from Hockenheim 1986. He stated that the drivers they were most enamoured with were those who would be fighters on the track.
Head then told some great stories about Alan Jones, in particular an incident at Kyalami. He goes on then to talk about Carlos Reutemann, stating he should have been 1981 World Champion but also reckoned that when Keke Rosberg joined in 1982, Reutemann knew it would be tough to beat Keke in same machinery. He states a number of factors led to Reutemann’s retirement including the upcoming (then) Falklands War.
He then goes on to talk about Rosbergs 161 mph lap at Silverstone in 1985, advising Rosberg would have been brilliant as a rally driver due to his technique and style. Head also stated that Rosberg should have won many more races instead of just five. He stated the German gave 100% all the time.
He told a brilliant story about Rosberg’s pit-stop in Brazil 1983 and losing his temper with him in the midst of same. Head then compares both Rosbergs advising Nico was heavily into the data, more calculating and a more thinking driver. Regarding driving styles, Nico didn’t throw a car around as much as Keke did.
Talks about the other World Champion Drivers for the team advising that Damon Hill was a very analytical and thoughtful driver. He then talks about the Mansell departure for 1993 along with the Mansell contract talks, Hill’s skill in the active ride car and the fact that Williams was advised to consider Hill for 1993. He stated that it took some time for Sir Frank to accept the driver that Hill turned out to be.
Head then talked about Imola 1994 and data analysis on both cars. He stated that Hill was brilliant at leading the team in and out of the car after Imola. He reckoned Hill’s leadership of the team in 1994 and his results stand above his 1996 achievements. He goes on to talk about Adelaide 1994 and that accident between Michael Schumacher and Hill.
He stated that Schumacher was a tremendous competitor but his sporting side was not as strong as people would have wished. He also noted that there were never conversations with Schumacher about driving for Williams. He went on to talk about Hill again, feeling that Hill’s inferiority complex was put to bed around late 1995.
He spoke about Hill’s contract negotiations for 1997 including the elements of Hills manager negotiating on his behalf. Head then talks about Jacques Villeneuve and the reasons for signing him with Bernie Ecclestone consulting with Sir Frank. He talks about Villeneuve’s period of testing initially and the discussions he and Sir Frank had about the Canadian being good enough for the team or not. He mentions his quirkiness, traits and the way he acted and the fact that Williams adjusted to the way he wanted to operate.
Here’s the F1 podcast: https://audioboom.com/posts/7925713-sir-patrick-head-looks-back-on-a-life-at-williams
The story was written by Neil Farrell
Here’s the last podcast from Jock Clear