How Williams lost faith in Zanardi after four races

Mark Scott
Alex Zanardi Williams

Alex Zanardi's surgeon reveals severity of his situation.

Alex Zanardi has said he sensed things were breaking down between him and Williams just four races into his troubled spell with the team.

Zanardi was brought back into the Formula 1 fold after a five-year absence following back-to-back CART title successes with Chip Ganassi Racing and partnered Ralf Schumacher for the 1999 season.

However, Zanardi’s return was a disastrous one, retiring from 10 out of the 16 races and failing to score a point in the other six.

The Italian driver explained where things all started to go wrong.

“I was actually given an engineer, very inexperienced, because in Patrick Head’s mind, he said ‘If they lose their way, we could always bring them back and copy the setup off the other car’,” Zanardi told Formula 1’s Beyond The Grid podcast.

“When I figured that was not the right approach, even before the beginning of the championship, I didn’t dare talk to Patrick and say ‘Things are not working this way, we need to make an adjustment because otherwise we’re just gonna lose a lot of time and we’re gonna lose confidence in each other’.

“I allowed myself to go over it and when I finally decided it was time to talk to him and tell him, that was at Imola after four races and I went to talk to him with these arguments and his answer was ‘Mmm, I don’t know,’ and I figured by that point the confidence in me had completely vanished.

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But Zanardi only blames himself for the troublesome year he had at Williams in 1999 despite feeling a lack of confidence in him from the team.

He added: “I think at that point, again you cannot force a man to believe you are the right one, if he believes he made a mistake in hiring you, there are things you can do, I tried, but by that point I was very much lonely from that point onwards.

“And I’m not blaming anyone for allowing me to fall on that situation, I am the main reason for my defeat. It’s as simple as this.

“He actually came one day to a test in Barcelona and engineered the car himself to try to understand whether he could help me to regain control of the situation.

“We were unprepared to speak the same language, it’s as simple as this. So I didn’t manage to communicate and the outcome is the one history tells.”

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