- Maurice Hamilton's blog
Williams Martini: A winning cocktailMaurice Hamilton March 6, 2014
At last: a Formula One launch worthy of the name. True, the purpose of the gathering in what appeared to be an upmarket west London warehouse (all white walls, dark corners and one loo between a couple of hundred guests) was to reveal the sponsor rather than the car. But the occasion had a nice mix of ceremony and informality; just what we've come to expect from Williams.
Actually, it was probably a cut above what the team's former technical director would have wanted in the past. Patrick 'Chat, cup of tea and a bun is all you need' Head was one of the first people I met when he came sauntering into the auditorium. Which was unusual because normally the team's personalities are hidden away in preparation for being announced on stage in a flood of gushing prose and lights. Patrick, turned out in sports jacket, cravat and uncharacteristic stubble, was enjoying the more relaxed status allowed by his advisory role as he watched proceedings with the hoi-polloi of the media world.
Patrick is seasoned enough to avoid optimistic predictions on the back of such an excellent winter test for what we now call the Williams Martini FW36. But he did note that, while the latest F1 power units and associated technology provide a fascinating challenge for the F1 engineers and technicians, it is worth wondering whether such advanced and extremely complex equipment will ever make it into the road cars of the future. Which is one of the reasons put forward for this outrageously expensive route chosen by the sport's administrators. But that's a discussion for another day.
The launch was all about the here and now. The absence of tea or coffee in preference for a wide-bowl glass of Martini (one or two of which ended on the floor with accompanying smashing and splashing) was a subliminal indication that the reunion of Martini and F1 is driven by the need to reinvent a name that has dropped off the beverage radar. Quite how far into the unknown was unfortunately demonstrated by Jodie Kidd when the presenter forgot to tell us who exactly the nice lady was when introducing the Martini representative. In any case, both were upstaged by Claire Williams when the deputy team principal spoke with concise confidence about the exciting times ahead.
And then the reveal. Cue curtains, more lights, cascading liquid (presumably not Martini), more music and the first sight of the Williams livery. Those of us of a certain age and recalling the Martini branding of the 1970s were not disappointed. The celebrated Martini Stripe has been tastefully added to an all-white car, giving cause for wide use of the word 'stylish' during the preceding chat by the lady from Martini whose name I forget.
The fear was that a desire to be cool and 21st century might induce shocking treatment of the signature red, blue and black stripes and prompt muttering under ancient breath that "it doesn't look as good as the Brabham BT44B".
Happily, that is not the case. FW36 looks every bit the part, 2014 aero appendages notwithstanding but including nice treatment of the competition numbers on the flanks - in addition to the regulatory frontal position which few spectators can see.
Gordon Murray's already gorgeous BT44 was set off perfectly by the Martini Brabham colour scheme in 1975. Gordon says that the BT44B was one of favourites because of this, but he admits the livery was down to his boss, a certain Mr Ecclestone. "It was all Bernie," says Gordon. "He loved doing that sort of thing and, to be honest, he had a great eye for such detail. It just made that car."
Doubtless, then, Mr E will approve of the white Williams joining his grid as he looks on from wherever he may be. "This is an important day in Williams history," said Claire Williams. It was indeed. And could be the start of many more. It was worthy of a launch, even without the tea and buns.
Maurice Hamilton writes for ESPN F1.