We’ve been talking for an hour and Jost Capito, the boss of Williams Racing for the past 10 months, is displaying the fine personal qualities for which he is well known: positivity, generosity, modesty and good humour.
But something is missing: the racer’s edge. I start wondering how and when Capito will display the urge to win that has carried him and his teams to success over 30 years at BMW, Porsche, Sauber, Ford, Volkswagen, McLaren and now Williams.
In the end, it comes with a rush, just as Capito’s minder is getting restless about the time; the CEO must soon move to another meeting. I pose one of those questions that I’m pretty sure will elicit a non-committal answer: does Capito think Formula 1’s regulation changes for 2022, which have been partly designed to allow cars to race more closely together, will have the desired effect?
“I don’t know,” answers Capito flatly. “What’s more, I don’t care. The regs are the same for everyone; no one should blame them for their bad performance. If the regs mean you can’t overtake, you just have to build the fastest car. If you’re slow, you just have to do a better job. It’s that simple.”
This hard-nosed philosophy, given the genteel proceedings of the previous hour, takes my breath away for a few seconds, but Capito fills the gap with increasing relish: “Because our team is running at the back, people ask me whether F1 needs some kind of balance-of-performance system [such as in the World Endurance Championship]. Maybe we need to reverse the grids? I always say no. I say we have to do a better job. I wouldn’t be in racing if it were just a lottery, where doing the best job meant you still might not win.”
To complete the point, Capito recalls a very different situation, not many years ago, when people were saying his Volkswagen team was too dominant in the World Rally Championship: “Jean Todt, the FIA president, came to me and said we were winning too much. I told him to go and tell the others they were losing too much. You can’t blame people for doing a good job. That’s completely against the spirit of the sport.”