In the not too distant past, it was not unknown for certain, somewhat unscrupulous team owners and bosses to sign-up a young hopeful – or old hopeful, for that matter – providing their palms were crossed with enough silver.
In exchange for a couple of million from their rich Daddy or faithful sponsor, said hopeful would get to drive a three or four-year-old car in a street demo in some far-flung city along with a set of teamwear, including their ‘race’ overalls, and some glossy pics to show the grandkids.
When Williams announced earlier this week that it had signed 25-year-old Roy Nissany as “official test driver”, there were fears that the legendary Grove outfit might be taking the same path in its quest for cash.
Nissany finished 22nd in the 2018 F2 championship, having scored one point from twenty starts, and previously finished 4th in the 2016 Formula V8 3.5 series and 5th in the following year’s World Series Formula V8 3.5.
The driver’s recruitment to the Williams cause was announced at a special event in Tel Aviv, where, as it happened, in February 2005, his father Chanock was revealed as Minardi’s test driver, having taken part in tests the previous year with the Italian team and, ahem, Jordan.
Speaking at this week’s event, Claire Williams defended the decision to sign Nissany.
“We’re a team on a journey back to recovery,” she explained, according to Motorsdport.com, “and we’ve got to have drivers that have the capability to understand what’s going on. There’s no point putting a driver in a car that you think isn’t going to do a good job for you, and particularly when you’re in the position that we’re in.
“So clearly we’re only going to take drivers that we know are going to be able to understand what’s going on in the car,” she continued, “to translate that to help with development and Roy proved that when he did the Abu Dhabi test for us at the end of the year.”
Referring to the test, at which Nissany was slowest on both days, his best time 6.768s off the pace, Williams said: “It was all about bringing parts for evaluation, so it wasn’t about setting the time sheets on fire. It was about doing the work that we asked him to do.
“I think that’s to his credit as well,” she added, “because some drivers can get in the car, who have never been in an F1 car before and go: ‘Brilliant. This is my opportunity to show the world what I can do’. And then they go and crash it.
“That wasn’t the programme, so really the lap times from that time, shouldn’t matter, and they don’t matter. But what I did see and what I learned from our engineers is that he was incredibly diligent. He came and he spent time with the team. He was a real team player who gave it everything that he needed to. He was around and he talked to people.
“That shouldn’t be underestimated how important that can be, and particularly in a team and the situation that our team is in, to have those drivers that all of our people look at and can go, ‘well they are putting the effort in, so I am going to put my effort in as well’.”
To be honest, one has to wonder what Sir Frank and Patrick Head would make of it.