'With right equipment, Narain can deliver?
Son of a Royal Air Force officer, Sir Frank Williams grew up passionate about motor racing and began racing his own Austin in 1961, funding his racing activities from his work as a travelling grocery salesman.
In his four-and-a half decade long association with the sport, he has seen the highs and lows. First as a driver and then boss of a successful Formula One team.
In March 1986, Williams was paralysed in an accident near the Paul Ricard racing circuit. He has been confined to a wheelchair ever since. Success has made Frank Williams a wealthy man but he has also been recognised for his achievements. He was awarded a CBE for his services to motor racing in 1987 and was knighted in January 1999.
In a chat with Hindustan Times, Sir Williams shares his views on the new F-1 season.
Formula One has been primarily a preserve of the Europeans. How does Narain as an Asian fit into Williams?
It is early days but Narain is certainly a charming individual with the most amazing enthusiasm for Formula One. I'd been made aware of his background and his climb up the ladder into Formula One, it has been characterised by endless hard work and never taking no for an answer.
As the boss of the team, what are your expectations from Narain in his new role?
What we need from Narain is solid hard work and a logical mind. From what we've seen of him so far, we have no doubt about the former, while only working with him in the future will tell us whether he has the latter. Being a race driver and a test driver are very different things.
What qualities did you see in Narain that made you decide on him? After all, you are a very knowledgeable person who would obviously expect huge feedback from Narain.
Narain is obviously unfazed by hard work. The testing routine is always rigorous and can sometimes be tedious and repetitious, but we do not doubt he will deliver everything we expect of him.
There is not too much time before the first Grand Prix in Bahrain. How is your team's preparation progressing with the new car and how much of a factor is Narain in it?
We've done a lot of work over the winter, but haven't crossed off all our problems yet. But what remains will be taken care of before the first race.
When one talks of speed, Indian motorsport fans feel happy that Narain did reasonably well in your winter testing. What would be your message to Indian motorsport lovers who look to Narain as a huge inspiration?
I think Narain is an astonishingly good example. If you want to get to the top in F-1, you should never take no for an answer. Narain is a clear example of that ethic.
Critics have said Narain does not have age on his side to be in a demanding sport like F-1. Is that true? And if Narain has withstood the rigours, what kind of a future can he have in the ever-changing world of Formula One?
Michael Schumacher is nearly ten years older than Narain. So clearly there is plenty of time ahead of him. With the right equipment and the right team, I have no doubt he can deliver.
What kind of response has there been in the UK to have an Indian doing a job like this?
Well, there was little surprise in the F1 world because Narain was already known to everyone. However, in the outside world, I think that because India is now perceived as a great emerging power, there is great curiosity to see another example of India's charge into the world.
What will be the talk in the paddock on Narain, since Indians get to hear little about it? More so since Narain himself does not speak much.
Presently, Narain is seen as being short on experience, but still very fast, although a bit erratic. He requires many more kilometres of testing and racing under his belt so he can gain experience. From experience, he will gain in confidence. I do believe that he has the necessary talent.
You have restructured your team by getting some fresh sponsors on board and a new car. What are your expectations from the new season?
It is always premature to make predictions until you race in competitions, but this year's car is a big step forward compared to last year's vehicle. However, it’s too early to comment as there are many unknown factors.
Formula One is spreading in Asia, are there more stops in this part of the globe? Is the focus shifting?
Mr (Bernie) Ecclestone, being an astoundingly clever businessman, always keeps his cards close to his chest. I think he has ambitions for one more Asian race but I think he is looking to move the emphasis to North and South America.
Would you like to tell our readers something about your tie-up with the Tatas?
At the moment, it is very early days in our new partnership with Tata, but we are delighted to welcome them to Williams. They are an extraordinary company, with so much skill in so many varying disciplines. They are an extremely well known brand in the UK, as well. As a team, we're looking forward to working with them in the future.