My Day At The Williams Factory – Thanks To Philips
Today I went on the visit to the Williams factory, which I wrote a preliminary article on a few days ago ( https://f1fanatics.wordpress.com/2009/07/16/going-to-the-williams-factory-next-week-competition-time/ ) . The day has been utterly fantastic, and here I shall write a few things regarding the day, visiting the museum and factory of Williams at the pleasure of the team and Philips who are running the great competition to drive an F1 car (see link in blog roll).
I was up bright and early for the drive down to Williams, a quick word with the gentleman on the gatehouse and parked the car up outside the facility known as the RBS Williams Conference Centre. It was formerly where BMW built their Le Mans car, which won and when this happened tied with BMW leaving Williams as an engine supplier in 2005, they vacated the building which now houses the conference facilities and the museum. Indeed, as you walk through the doors, past a fantastic topiary of a pit stop, there are two F1 cars greeting you, a 2008 Williams FW30 and a 1997 Jacques Villeneuve Williams suspended from the ceiling. I met the gentlemen from Synergy who were hosting us, and also some other bloggers and writers from all kinds of sites. We then met two Williams reps, and we were split into groups for the factory tour.
My tour was headed up by Millie, who not just a pretty face appeared to know a fair bit about F1. Which is just as well really! We started in the seat fitters part of the factory, where we had a chat and a look round with a gentleman who loved his job, he just adored seats and making them perfectly. We looked at the materials used, and also how different drivers have different needs. 2 anecdotes now; Mark Webber managed to get a stress fracture to his ribs while driving for Williams in 2005 after a ridge in the seat pressed against them. And secondly, the man who spoke with us said his worst “customer” was Juan Pablo Montoya, who over the course of 2004 managed to put on 10kg’s of weight over the season making him almost too overweight to fit in the car!
Next stop on the tour was the composite carbon fibre factory, where Paul (one of 8!) talked to us about various parts they make from Carbon Fibre, and how it is probably one of the best materials for racing cars. He showed us how they make front and rear end safety zones, and how the carbon is layered to allow it to crumple in an accident. We also saw a glimpse of a sheet of developments for the FW31, which was whisked away in seconds! Moving through into the factory where machinists were we met Bernie, a man who has worked for the team since it’s existence. He really hammered home what a great place it was to work, and how it was a family. I was told later that Sir Frank Williams often wheels himself around the factory, and knows almost everyone by name. Here we saw parts, and discussed how they made the cars super-light-weight, including using titanium spinners in the gearbox, with small holes to allow just enough oil to be sprayed into the gearbox to keep it running and keep weight down! Mind you, the ballasts we saw add a heck of a lot of weight! Moving on, we saw the race bays where the cars are taken apart and put back together, unfortunately most were gone just a display car left thanks to the Hungarian Grand Prix taking place this weekend. On from there we go the chance to visit another Paul, who talked us through various parts in an engine, exhausts and even showing us the size of the internal brakes. We also saw the simulator, and spoke with Jeff Callam, who would answer our questions later on.
Back to the Silverstone boardroom suite, and with jokes about “Sir Alan, I’m sorry – nope you’re fired” we settled down to talk with Sam Michael, the Williams tech chief. A very interesting man, who came across very well and clear in his knowledge field. He admitted that he felt the FIA were holding back development, F1 did have corporate responsibility to be green, and indeed he always wanted to be an engineer not a driver (but wouldn’t mind a go in one of the cars!). Jeff Callam was adamant that the simulator was vital in giving the driver’s the edge, and giving junior drivers a chance to see the tracks. He cited Nico Hulkenberg as a good example, with him driving 2 tracks he had never seen before and getting 2 3rd place qualifications, indeed he was fastest at Silverstone having only done 1 installation lap previous after an engine failure.
We then headed off down to the museum, and after a theatre style film ‘bigging’ up the Williams team, with interviews even from the gardener we got to see the cars, almost one from every year through to 2007, with informative films and footage throughout. The first Williams winner, the 6 wheeler, Senna’s 1994 car, the 1997 Villeneuve car with a dent where Schumacher hit it, right through to Alex Wurz’s actual 2007 race car from late in the season. Along with a trip to the well stocked trophy room, and a good laugh at some of the terrible looking trophies (Adelaide’s plastic cup comes to mind, or perhaps the Fosters pint glass), the day was almost done. We luncheoned, and talked F1 politics from Scott Speed, to the Canadian Grand Prix to even FOTA and the future of the FIA (and an almost golden handshake that Jean Todt will be the next president).
And that was the day, a terrific one though it has to be said!
I would like to extend thanks, and special words for:
– Martin Uttley, for the opportunity
– The guys at Synergy, for putting on a great day on behalf of Philips
– Camilla Graham-Enock for a great tour
– Paul, Bernie, Paul and all the other guys we met on our tour
Don’t forget to enter the competition at; http://www.attwilliams.philips.com/
This will be permalinked to Rob’s Column
Was fantastic to meet the guys from BritsonPole.com, F1Badger, Duncan “Doctor Vee”, Richard from F1Fans, the guys from Mobil1 and Gilette Speed Vision and everyone else who was running sites!