Five years may not seem long, but in Formula One it is a lifetime. The sport of 2007 is a very different one to that of 2012, and no man is better able to gauge this evolution than Adam Parr. As Chairman of Williams, he played a focal part in the team’s turnaround culminating in Pastor Maldonado’s fantastic victory in Catalunya last season. Having left the team in 2012, Adam has recently detailed his time in Formula One in his book “The Art of War: Five Years in Formula One”, earning great acclaim. Adam was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for Richland F1 on his time in F1, his book, and his tips for 2013.
Luke Smith: Adam, thank you very much for your time. Firstly, would you like to tell our readers a little bit about how you got into Formula One in the first place?
Adam Parr: I was living in Western Australia, working in mining and wondering how we could improve performance on the large mining equipment we used. I wanted not just to change things a little, or for a short while, but really make a step change and keep repeating it. So I got in touch with Frank Williams through a mutual friend and, typically of Frank, he said “I’ll pop over and see you”. So, after Melbourne in 2001, he flew to Perth and we had tea. We got on well, kept in touch and I visited him at Grove. He came back to Western Australia in about 2003. I remember sitting in his office in Grove in the summer of 2003 and he told me about the argument over tyres that hurt the Michelin teams a lot that year. I asked to see the regulations and John Healey, the team’s general counsel, brought them in. It seemed to me that Williams had a strong case – but I remember FW taking the view that they had to take the hit and move on. I would have fought! But that’s why FW has had 40 years in F1 and I had five… Nonetheless, we got on well and in 2006 he asked me to join up.
LS: You joined Williams in 2006, spending over five years with the team. What would you say was your proudest achievement during your time with Williams?
AP: My proudest achievement was helping to turn around the team financially and then putting in place a race-winning technical team. So I guess you could say the Spanish GP in 2012 was my best moment in F1 – even though I wasn’t in it!
LS: 2012 has been Williams’ best season since 2004, with Pastor Maldonado taking the win in Spain. Was this something of a surprise to you, or was 2012 a ‘year in the making’ for the team? What is your opinion on the team’s decision to drop Bruno Senna in favour of Valtteri Bottas?
AP: 2012 was the result of 2011 really, although the victory in Barcelona was beyond expectations. But 2012 was not satisfactory and so you can see there is still a lot of the way to go. On the drivers, you know, I hated these decisions. There is no question that Valtteri is hugely talented and the team needed to retain him one way or another. On the other hand, I believe in Bruno and that as his weakness is lack of experience and his strength his ability to learn, he will continue to get better. So I hope to see him racing again in 2013.
LS: How much do you think both Williams and Formula One have changed during your five years of activity? Is the 2012 sport a very different one to the F1 you entered in 2006?
AP: It is different but I worry that the positive changes of 2008 and 2009 will be squandered. That was a period where people did things that were essential for the sport and to some extent either they put the sport ahead of their own narrow interests or they at least realized that the two were the same. I hope that we do not see that spirit disappearing.
LS: You have recently finished a book detailing your five year stint in the sport, titled “The Art of War – Five Years in Formula One”. Do you feel this reflects the cut-throat nature of the sport? What can we expect from the book?
AP: You can expect – based on what readers have said – a different perspective on the sport presented in a different way. But best not to say more than that – let people discover it for themselves, and let me know what they think on Twitter or Facebook.
LS: What is your favourite memory from your time in F1?
AP: My favourite memories are some of those quiet moments in the Paddock after sunset when we had a good weekend and the race team was buoyed up by the experience. Sharing those moments is what a team lives for. We did not have enough, but that made them all the more special.
LS: Finally, 2012 was a classic season. Do you believe the right man won the championship? Who would you tentatively tip for 2013?
AP: You could argue that the right man always wins because that is what sport is about. For 2013, if Williams give Pastor and Valtteri a car as competitive as the one in 2012 and they both do their best at every race, then Williams can take the World Championship and either of them could take the Drivers’.
Images courtesy of Adam Parr and Octane Photographic.