Frank and Patrick - a great double act

You might think that the motivation of Formula 1 team owners is the same, from man to man, but you'd be wrong. For some, the raison d'etre is to win races and championships, and thus to build a profitable company; for others, one feels, the object is to build a profitable company

Frank and Patrick - a great double act

Years ago, I remember chatting to a driver disillusioned with his boss. "His team's never won a grand prix," he said, "and it never will -- that's the last thing he wants! It would increase the pressure, it would be so much trouble! He just wants to get quietly rich..."

An extreme case, perhaps, but there is no doubt that some team owners are more obsessed with winning than others. They live it and they dream it.

This is why Williams Grand Prix Engineering has always so appealed to me. None of your slick launches, B-list celebrities and dry ice here. When Frank Williams and Patrick Head unveil a car, the occasion is pleasingly relaxed, along the lines of, 'Well, there's the car, and if anyone wants to talk to us about it, we're here, sort of thing...'

They even use plain English, and that, in this age of politically correct gobbledy-gook, is a joy in itself.

Last week I asked them how it is they have contrived to work together so successfully for so long. It was back in November 1975 that Williams first offered Head a job.

"Well," said Patrick, "Frank and I both say that, had it not been for his accident, it's likely we would not still I be working together. Prior to that, he was very good at the logistics of running a car, like making sure it was out at the right time, that it had the right amount of fuel in it, and so on, but he really didn't have much of an understanding, technically.

"If Frank hadn't had his accident, I'm sure he'd still be running a car in the pit lane, complete with clipboard - there's no way he'd be using a laptop! And I think that could have caused us problems - as you remember, he was a bouncy character, with a very strong ego that would sometimes cause him to make poor judgements..."

It was in March 1986, en route from a Ricard test to the airport in Nice, that Williams had the road accident in which he broke his neck. "Obviously," he said, "that changed the way I had to live. Prior to that, I'd been a lot more...up front, and there might well have been one clash of wills too many between Patrick and myself. As it was, my life changed, and in many ways, in terms of our relationship, perhaps it worked for the better."

Head deeply admires FW's strength of character. "Frank has always been very pragmatic. In the old days, when he didn't have any money for engines, or whatever, his attitude was, 'How am I going to get out of this?' He's always dealt with whatever was in front of him, never been one to say, 'It's not fair'. And it was exactly the same with his accident.

"Yes, I'm sure at the time he had massive regrets, but once it had happened, his attitude was, 'OK, this is the position I'm in, this is what I have left to me - how am I going to make the best of it?' He's a man of remarkable self-discipline, and he uses it to get the best from the faculties that he has."

In an interview I did with Williams 20 years ago, he said that he and Head had a huge row about once a week, and then it was over, forgotten.

"Did I say that?" grinned Frank. "Well, once in a while, perhaps. We still have our disagreements - I mean, he'll come out with something, and I'll think, 'How could you dare say that?' But it never lasts for long."

Patrick smilingly allowed that Frank was rather better at keeping things to himself. "I sort of blow my top every now and then, and I can see him biting his lip, thinking, 'I don't agree with Patrick - am I going to respond or not? No, better leave it, it'll sort itself out in time...' As I get older, I fire from the hip a bit less than I did."

Head is sure that one reason for the success of their business relationship is that they operate in different areas. "On major things, such as choosing drivers, we share the decisions, but mostly Frank focuses on marketing, the image of the company, the relationships with its partners and sponsors, and so on. He provides front-end leadership.

"In terms of the manufacturing and technical side of the company, he's not completely out of it, because he certainly has an overview, and often he'll raise subjects with me, but in general I deal with it."

Williams rather plays down his own contribution. "We're different characters, with different skills, but we both love what we do. Patrick's outstanding at some things, and I'm...reasonable at other things. He looks after the engineering, which I've always realised is 80 percent of Fl, and I look after the other 20 percent, which is business and politics and so on."

There must, I suggested, have been times when other teams have tried to lure Head away. "He probably pondered one or two offers seriously," replied Frank. "I think Ron [Dennis] may have come close once, but I don't really know, because Patrick's fairly discreet. He's his own man, and always was. I don't think he's wavered much in his time with me.

"The thing about Patrick is, he's very clever. I'm constantly impressed by the way he uses his brain to solve all sorts of things, not just to do with engineering.

"We're both getting on a bit, but we haven't run our course yet. Which of us will leave F1 first, I don't know. I mean, Patrick's got a plan, but I'll be surprised if he goes through with it - he's addicted, mate! He's like me, loves the oversteer, loves the noise. I think we're both racers, and if there's anything I'm proud of, it's that. Love it..."

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