The Driver Suit Blog-Williams Grand Prix Engineering Undergarments Part 1

nakajimashirtBy David G. Firestone

Formula One Month continues, and now we are in my area of expertise. We’re going to talk about uniforms. I talked a few weeks ago about how teams are beginning to add logos to their undershirts in American auto racing. Formula One has take this to a whole new level. For this and next week, we are going to get into this.

Williams F1 has an interesting history. Although the current version was founded in 1977, Frank Williams started his first team in 1969. That team, Frank Williams Racing Cars, never achieved any real success in Formula One. Even after bringing in Walter Wolfe as an owner in 1976, the team wasn’t doing well at all, and Williams left in 1977. The old team became Walter Wolfe Racing, and lasted until the 1970 season. In 1977, Williams founded Williams Grand Prix Engineering, and the team eventually took off. Williams Grand Prix Engineering currently has 7 Formula One Drivers Championships, 9 Manufacturers Championships, and 114 race wins. They have had some great drivers, like Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, and KeKe Rosberg. Other drivers they have had haven’t done well, like Kazuki Nakajima.

Born in Okazaki, Aichi, Japan, Kazuki Nakajima, son of Satoru Nakajima, raced through the ranks of Japanese karting, won the Suzuka Formula ICA karting champion in 1999, and was picked up by Toyota as a developmental driver. He won Formula Toyota in 2003, advanced to Japanese Formula Three in 2004, and had a decent amount of success. After moving to the Formula Three Euroseries in 2006, he raced alongside Sebastian Vettel, and finished seventh in the points. Nakajima also raced in GP2 and the Japanese GT300 series during this time.

In 2007, Nakajima was signed as a test driver for Williams F1. He was one of two test drivers, along with Narain Karthikeyan. They were the test drivers, and Nico Rosberg and Alexander Wurz were the race drivers. Wurz retired from F1 just before the 2007 Chinese Grand Prix, the final race of the season, and Nakajima took over the Williams seat. In 2008, Nakajima raced the full season with Williams, and their sponsors, with All Saints clothing on as a new sponsor. Nakajima failed to score a single point in any capacity. In 2009, Nakajima raced a second season for Williams F1, and after a second season with no points scored, he left Williams. He was scheduled to race for Stefan GP, but due to a ruling by Formula One, Stefan GP wasn’t allowed to race for the 2010 season. Nakajima left Formula one.

2008 in Formula One will forever be known for “Crashgate.” Crashgate, also known as the “Singapore Sling” was when Nelson Piquet Jr. intentionally spun and crashed on lap 14 of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to give teammate Fernando Alonso an advantage. This advantage worked well because Alonso started 15th and won the race. While ignored at the time, it would later emerge that Renault F1 had ordered Piquet to crash. The investigation destroyed Renault as an F1 team, with Alonso winning the following Japanese Grand Prix, which is their last win in F1 as a team. Two engineers who were involved, Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds, were banned for life from Formula One, though this was later reduced on appeal. In the end, Lewis Hamilton of McLaren would win his first Championship.

As I said above, Formula One is really focused on logo placement on uniforms. Drivers are given special undershirts that mirror the logo placements on driver suits. This is done so that the driver can wear the suit pulled up to the waist, for comfort, without taking sponsor exposure away. This example is a Kazuki Nakajima undershirt from 2008.nakajimashirtThe shirt shows light use, not uncommon, as Nomex undershirts are often rotated by the driver. The Nomex here is a much lighter and thinner version than NASCAR or the NHRA uses.

The front collar features a Phillips Shavers logo heat pressed into the fabric. There is no cowl tag. There is a Sparco FIA compliance tag sewn into the area just below the neck.nakajimashirt-collarThe right chest features an AT&T logo heat-pressed into the Nomex material.nakajimashirt-rchestThe left chest features an RBS logo and a Bridgestone logo.nakajimashirt-lchestThe front torso has an All-Saints logo present.nakajimashirtf-flogoThe left side has a Sparco inventory tag, which also has wash instructions. The tag is sewn in a vertical style, as opposed to a jock-tag style attachment.nakajimashirt-tagThe shoulders have Sparco logos in epaulet position, but have no epaulets or other adornment.nakajimashirt-rshoulder nakajimashirt-lshoulderThe right sleeve features THOMSON REUTERS, OTIS WATCHES, and BR PETROBAS logos heat pressed on the upper arm, and RBS logos present on the end of the sleeve in television position.nakajimashirt-rsleeve1 nakajimashirt-rsleeve2The left sleeve features ALLIANZ and LENOVO logos on the upper sleeve, and RBS logos in television position.nakajimashirt-lsleeve1 nakajimashirt-lsleeve2The back of the shirt doesn’t show any wear to speak of.nakajimashirtbThe back of the neck has no adornment present.nakajimashirt-neckThe back of the shirt has two logos. A WILLIAMS AT&T logo on top, and a PHILLIPS SHAVERS logos underneath.nakajimashirt-blogoGoing back to the Guy Smith article, I just don’t get why in the world NASCAR isn’t doing this more. Sponsors would love them, fans would love them, driver would love them, it works out well for everyone. Granted, there are some teams that are doing this, but why all the top teams aren’t is mind boggling. I’d also like to point out that this would help the NASCAR memorabilia market. American racing fans would love to own one of these custon shirts, yet for some strange reason, they never seem to happen. Do you honestly think that fans wouldn’t want to own a race-worn undershirt from their favorite driver? Fans will buy anything, and I mean ANYTHING with their favorite driver’s name and/or number on it. These would sell very well. I’m totally lost why this isn’t a fixture in NASCAR.

Next week, we will stay with Williams F1, but in a more recent example, from one of their current drivers.

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