Patrick Head, co-owner of the Williams Formula One team, has explained to the media just how close his team came to signing Lewis Hamilton in 2004. It has always been suggested that Lewis was intrinsically close to Ron Dennis and the McLaren team from an early age, but it turns out that father and manager Anthony Hamilton had a falling out with McLaren three years ago and instigated a meeting with Frank Williams and Patrick Head. It appears that BMW were the spoiler at the party, refusing to fund Lewis’s racing obligations before promoting him to the F1 team, all this despite Frank’s glowing assessment of the youngsters talent.
BMW lost Nico Rosberg when the German signed for Williams, Sebastian Vettel has since left the team and joined the Red Bull family, racing for Scuderia Toro Rosso, and now Timo Glock has left to race with Toyota. My gut feeling is that Timo is going regret this move, but time will tell. But the point is that while BMW do have two good racers in their cars, one gets the impression they aren’t thinking that much about the future, letting some talented young-guns slip through their fingers.
Getting back to the Hamilton/Williams admission, it has become clear that in 2004, when Lewis was racing in the F3 Euroseries, his father was pressing McLaren to let him progress up a series. However, McLaren insisted Lewis stay in F3 Euroseries for another year. This prompted Anthony Hamilton to call a meeting with Franck and Patrick where he outlined the issues and asked to switch allegiance to Williams. Unfortunately for Frank, his team didn’t have the resources to fund Hamilton’s career and as previously stated, BMW didn’t want anything to do with it.
They rang up and said ‘can we come and see you?’ And they came in and said ‘Ron Dennis has dropped us’.
We were with BMW at the time and I think Frank rang Mario Theissen and said ‘look, this guy looks as if he could be pretty good and whatever and he has come to us saying can we help him. And I think Mario said they weren’t prepared to provide any support and we weren’t in a position financially where we could finance his racing.
So much to Frank’s annoyance, he could have had Lewis in a Williams. Patrick Head.
For Lewis, it was probably a wise decision to remain with McLaren, and the young Briton went on to take the 2005 F3 Euroseries title, then in 2006 the GP2 title before being promoted to the F1 race team last season. Had he been pushed into a Williams or BMW his talent may have been lost among the less-than-great cars coming out of Grove at the time, or have been poached into a BMW and forced to wait until the team come good.