F1 Birthdays: 5/6/2011

Williams co-founder and former Engineering Director Patrick Head celebrates his birthday today. Like Sir Frank, he’s been around for a long time.

His father was a Jaguar sportscar racer in the 50s, so Patrick grew up around cars. When he left school he joined the navy, but changed careers to get a Mechanical Engineering degree from UCL. He went to work for Lola, and met Frank Williams. Patrick’s projects didn’t become very successful so he quit for a while until Williams Grand Prix Engineering was founded in 1977. Williams raced a customer March in 1977, but in 1978 raced their own car which Patrick had designed. By their third season, Patrick’s cars were getting drivers on the podium, and took their first win at the British GP.
In 1980, they won both the driver and constructor championships. Patrick Head backed away from his direct role in designing the cars, becoming the first Technical Director. In the early 90s, they managed to get Adrian Newey on board. They dominated the early years until Senna’s tragic accident in Imola. In 1994, the Williams were fast (Senna got pole in the first three races) but unreliable due to the banning of electrical aids on the car.
In 2004, as Williams began to struggle, Patrick Head stepped aside for Sam Michael. The young Australian has struggled to get a good car on the track, with the team finishing sixth last year and currently ninth in the championship.

With five constructors’ and four drivers’ championships (for four different drivers) under his supervision, Head’s left a great legacy to Williams. Happy birthday!

[It’s also Aldo Costa’s birthday today, but he resigned so no longer counts as an F1 birthday]

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