Continuing our tour of the Formula One factories, this week we look at two of the sports most successful teams; Williams and Renault. Both squads are based in the beautiful countryside surrounding Oxford, and from these buildings have come many a championship and many a great car.
Williams: Grove, Oxfordshire
Having been one of the most successful teams in Formula One’s history, you would imagine their factory to be one of grandeur and glamour. The factory is pleasant, based in the countryside South of Oxford, is modern-looking and set in beautiful grounds of rolling green grass. But glamourous is perhap the wrong word to use. Understated would be more appropriate. When reading peoples accounts of visiting the centre, many tell stories of not finding the place, missing the small sign by the main entrance or generally feeling underwhelmed by the apparent normality at the sight of the place. But like BMW Sauber, Williams are no-nonsense, so maybe this similar approach will fair both teams well in the future, just as it has in the past.
Williams seem to open their doors quite a lot for visitors, as in, they regularly hold tours for fans and have a merchandise shop somewhere within the complex. Opposite the main entrance is a trimmed hedge shaped into an F1 car with pit crew (shown in photograph), and inside you’ll find cars from the past detailing the squads impressive history. Although Williams currently aren’t enjoying the success they were once used to, their factory certainly reeks of a company dedicated to returning to glory. And although the team may appear closed while at races, looking at their factory and reading accounts of others, they are certainly more open when they are in their countryside home.
Click to view the Williams factory in Google Maps. Or check out their interactive tour on the Williams website.
Renault: Enstone, Oxfordshire
Also based in the Oxfordshire countryside are Renault. Of course, being owned by the French manufacturer, the team also have facilities in France, notably Viry-Chatillon, where the engines are designed and built. But like most other squads, their operations and day-to-day running of the team are based in the UK at Enstone. Whiteways Technical Centre has been in Formula One use since its construction in 1992, originally being owned by the Benetton team before the Renault acquisition.
Unlike close neighbours Williams though, Enstone is very understated and not like a standout building you might expect, instead choosing to be hidden among the trees and foliage. The building itself looks like a British primary school, laid out, on the whole, on one floor with the typical flat roof. There is no pomp or circumstance with Enstone, just a building full of dedicated workers dutifully getting on with the task in hand. Inside is an impressive display of cars, helmets and paraphernalia, and the littering of parts extends to all quarters of publicly accessible areas. The facility has been expanded over time and now employs ~350 people and even gets the occasional mention on the towns official website.