Guest Author - Christine Blachford
Hidden in the midst of the Oxfordshire countryside is the Williams F1 factory, and the Williams F1 Conference Centre. The Centre runs all manner of events for corporate clients, they offer sport and business related services, and they even do weddings.
However, the Centre also houses the Williams Grand Prix Collection, which is a tribute to their 30+ years in the sport. When you enter the collection, you're confronted with a wall of champions, with pictures of the drivers who have made a significant contribution to Williams history in F1. Keke Rosberg, Ayrton Senna, Jacques Villeneuve and more, are all represented in this hallway. It leads into a video room, where a short introduction to the team is played, and then you are granted access to the collection.
The collection has the Williams cars from every decade, grouped by engine supplier. Honda, BMW and Renault are all represented, and each section is accompanied by a video explaining the major events of that particular period, and whether Williams were successful at that particular time. Obviously the videos are spun very positively towards the team, but it is really interesting to be able to see a lot of the footage. Bernie Ecclestone has much of the modern F1 footage locked down, so to be able to see snippets of races from the 1970s and 80s is very fascinating.
The collection then leads up to the trophy room, which includes a lot of the engineering from inside the car out on display, although no secrets are given away. There are many, many trophies to have a look at, and there are some you can get up close to and touch. There's also an F1 car that you can sit in and have your picture taken in, as well. There's something for everyone.
The tour ends in the gift shop, which is the normal team merchandise, but is very easy to purchase and take home with you. Having taken the tour, the one thing that really comes across is that Williams is a real family business. People work there for years, some have been there since the team began, and all know and have spoken to the owner Frank Williams. It seems like a really nice atmosphere and although I've always liked the team, I now feel that I appreciate them even more.