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Bernie Slams Big Ron
Birth of Roger Williamson
2008: F1 saw an ugly side of the sport during pre-season testing in Barcelona. McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton was subjected to racial taunts and abuse from a number of spectators. Hamilton had become extremely unpopular in Spain after the previous year’s rivalry with Spanish ex-teammate Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton the sport’s first black / mixed race driver was met with chants of “black s***”, “black whore” and “f****** blacks”, while some spectators dressed up in black-face and wigs and wore t-shirts with “Hamilton’s Family” written on them.
Circuit officials had to close the stands across from the McLaren garage to stop the abuse. Hamilton for his part spoke conciliatory saying, “The truth is that I feel somewhat sad, I am in love with this country, and especially the city of Barcelona and this circuit, which is one of my three favourites”.
2008: At the Norwood Business Breakfast at London’s Claridge’s Hotel F1 supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, slammed McLaren head Ron Dennis. Ecclestone said the team “got off cheap” after the FIA imposed a £50million fine and stripped them of all points in the 2007 constructors’ championship for the team’s involvement in the “Spygate” affair.
Spygate involved the theft of Ferrari intellectual property which ended up in the possession of a McLaren employee. Ecclestone also hinted he questioned how much Dennis knew about Spygate when he said “Ron was six months pregnant and said he was a virgin”.
The fine was later reduced to £32million on appeal. Ironically, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs ruled that McLaren could claim a corporate tax deduction against the FIA judgement which effectively reduced the fine to zero. (Full details: Wiki)
1948: Roger Williamson was born in Leicestershire on this day. Williamson won the 1971 and 1972 British Formula 3 titles for the GRD-Ford-Holbay team. Williamson began 1973 testing for BRM before being offered a drive with the March team before the British GP, replacing Jean-Pierre Jarier.
In his first F1 race at Silverstone Williamson qualified his March-Ford twenty-second in a field of twenty-nine cars. Unfortunately, Williamson was involved in a first lap pile-up which eliminated him and eight other drivers. Two weeks later at the Dutch GP at Zandvoort Williamson would qualify eighteenth in a field of twenty-four. On lap eight tragedy struck.
While coming through the East Tunnel right hand bend Williamson suffered a tyre failure which flipped his car sideways on the track. With the car sliding on its side the fuel tank ruptured and caught fire. Williamson was believed to have been uninjured but was trapped in a car engulfed in flames.
LEC-March driver David Purley stopped and ran over to the crash and tried to push the car back onto its four wheels. Purley would later say that Williamson shouted at him to pull him out of the car. It took the track fire truck nearly ten minutes to reach the crash. By the time the fire was out and the car upright Roger Williamson was dead from asphyxiation.
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES MAY BE UPSETTING