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Mat Coch writes:
Few in Formula One have credentials with which to rate drivers better than Sir Frank Williams, a man who has won more championships than any other team principal in the sport's history. Having won titles with Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet few have witnessed so many top line drivers from such close quarters.
His suggestion that of the current crop of Formula One drivers he would most like Lewis Hamilton to join his illustrious team is a compliment of the highest order. "Vettel is very good," the 70-year-old told the Guardian, "and Lewis. If you said to me that all the drivers today are free and they're all desperate to get into Williams, I would say: 'Send in Lewis'.
"I'd say that because he's English and a winner. Lewis? I'd take him any time!"
Williams' comments come at an interesting time, since the 2008 world champion is out of contact at the end of the season and the team's fortunes (and stock) are on the rise. However, while things are moving in the right direction there is still some way to go before the Grove outfit can entice drivers of Hamilton's calibre.
There was a time when Williams was the sport's benchmark, dominating the 1990's. Many of the sports best drivers over the past three decades have sat in one of Sir Frank's cars at one time or another, and most have won races.
Perhaps the biggest name not to win a race for Williams was Ayrton Senna, his death in 1994 prompted the team to carry a small Senna logo on its cars until this season. "We've dropped that," he admitted, adding that after nearly two decades that it was time, plus "we've now got Bruno."
Speculation over the younger Senna's hiring at Williams centred around his ability to bring money to the team. The Senna name is a marketable commodity, an attractive prospect for a team which endured the worst season in its long history in 2011.
"It's not because he has the same name or even the same talent as Ayrton," Williams argued. "Bruno was just a good candidate and a very intelligent person. There were no negatives - just some good, positive reasons to say: 'Yes, let's give him a go.'"
Thus far the decision has not proven itself to be a masterstroke, but by the same token it's not been a failure. However, alongside teammate Pastor Maldonado Senna has been found wanting, especially in light of the Venezuelan's Spanish Grand Prix victory.
"There was only relief," Williams said of that weekend. "Relief that the car had won again after such a long time. And then came the worry that we keep it up and do it again. That's why there's been no complacency since then."
The longest ever serving team principal, Williams has learned over the years never to expect success. While victory in Spain was long overdue and more than welcome, he's kept his ambition and hopes in check.
"I'm never that optimistic because life is cruel. Just when you think, 'woah, you've got to watch this!' it all goes wrong. If you're an athlete you are in control of yourself and your fate is down to you. But, in Formula One, we have so many links in the chain and you only need one link to go wrong. There's always a lot to worry about.
"Someone once said that assumption is the mother of all f**k-ups. It's a great line, but it's also true. It sums up Formula One. You can take nothing for granted. Maybe if you're Red Bull or McLaren you can say, on a Saturday night: 'Well, we should have at least one car in the top three tomorrow.' But even then you cannot be entirely sure. I learnt that years ago."
Williams, like Bernie Ecclestone, refuses to slow down despite his advancing years. "I'd rather not be reminded that I'm 70. But I am. On the other hand, I'm too busy to worry about it."
"I'm at work every day of the week because there is a lot to do and I love F1. I'm just not ready to make a dramatic change in my life - like staying at home."
There's no doubt Williams has come a long way from running his team from a public phone booth, operating on what he calls a "hand-to-mouth" existence. With seven drivers championships and nine constructors titles to the teams name Williams, even in spite of its dry spell in recent years, remains one of the most successful teams in the sports history.
But things are on the up. "We've acquired several good people who have made a real difference," he said. "The company is now in good hands, with Mike (Coughlan) leading the design and Mark (Gillan) in charge of racing operations.
"They're helping us regain out momentum."
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