Tech Draft: Have Williams lost touch with their heritage?

Tech Draft: Have Williams lost touch with their heritage?

Williams announced that the “Senna Logo” featured on all the team’s cars since the Brazilian Great lost his life in their car at Imola in 1994 will be removed from 2022 onwards. Is that a sign that the team is losing touch with its heritage?

Have you ever had the opportunity to stand at the spot where Elio de Angelis, Jim Clark or Gilles Villeneuve died?

If you have, and you understand what Formula 1 is, and understand its heritage, then it is highly likely that the experience would have been powerful for you.

In the more modern era, the Senna memorial at Tamburello at Imola is sacrosanct, and to many of F1’s hardcore fans, a place of pilgrimage.

F1 is and has always been a unique sport

Even though safety has progressed exponentially since the sports inception, even today our heroes are gladiators who enter the arena of battle with their very existence on this earth as the primary risk.

F1 is a sport that has always been dangerous and, unfortunately, far too many extremely talented and good people have paid the ultimate and most unnecessary price of their life in the pursuance of theirs and our passion.

I must admit that when I woke this morning and read the news that Williams will no longer carry the ‘S logo’, the memorial of Ayrton Senna, one of our beloved sports greatest drivers that was mandated as permanent by the recently departed Sir Frank Williams CBE, the very founder of one of the sport’s most successful and significant teams, my feelings were conflicted.

Reading Jost Capito’s justifications I felt as though I could at the very least empathise with the rationalisations that he had presented. However, the following comment ultimately irked me, and has done so ever since.

“We had to look now in the future and not show the drivers the ‘S’ all the time they get in the car and being reminded of what happened”, said Capito.

Now that cannot be right

How can the principal of an F1 team, not any F1 team, but one so widely acknowledged as “The Greatest Garagiste” be so disrespectful of the very fundamental principles on which this great sport was founded?

Regardless of who now owns the Williams F1 team, it still uses the name of the person who founded Williams Grand Prix Engineering, Sir Frank.

When the current owners bought the business, there is no doubt that an important part of the value proposition on which they based their purchase was the credibility and heritage associated with the “Williams” name.

To Ayrton Senna, Sir Frank wasn’t just the owner and boss of the team that he was so desperate to join to further his professional career. For several years prior to 1994 Frank was a friend, confidante, and mentor to Ayrton, and those within the inner circle know that Frank would take a weekly hour(s) long phone call with Ayrton at the same time for several years. The mere fact that Ayrton eventually became a Williams driver was a fait accompli in the natural course of their close relationship.

The Senna logo was personal to Frank Williams

It is no secret that when Ayrton died, and unfortunately in one of Frank’s cars, a piece of Frank was left with him.

Sir Frank made a very public statement that the Senna logo will remain on every Williams chassis forever, out of respect for the price a friend of his, and one of the sports greatest paid, his very life.

It was very personal to Frank, and I venture to write that it was more personal to him than it would have been to any other team boss at the time. So deep was their relationship.

So, when Dorilton Capital announced that the FW44 would be the first Williams chassis since 1994 to not show the Senna logo, not only did I ask myself where the acknowledgement of the Williams heritage was, I also wondered how long it will be until the Williams F1 chassis is no longer named as ‘FW’ as a nod to Sir Frank, and even how long it will be until Williams is no longer named ‘Williams’ and rather something else.

Sorry Jost, and sorry Dorliton, but in dropping the use of the Senna logo you have neglected your heritage, and risk losing your identity.