Peter Windsor: Time for reconciliation

Much has been said about Peter Windsor; accolades and derision. Praise and pejorative. With his new role at GP, he has shared his thoughts on the USF1 failure. It’s all there if you care to read it and depending on your impression of Mr. Windsor, perhaps you have something to say as well. I have something to say about the veteran F1 journalist and failed team owner…indulge me.

In life, like F1, success is not guaranteed. Hard work is not always rewarded and humility is not always served proportionally. Like most entrepreneurs, Windsor crafted a business plan. It’s just that his plan was centered on entering the world’s most prestigious form of motorsport. The stakes were huge, the money bigger and the politics the most daunting of them all. The failure of USF1 was, in retrospect, not pleasant but not unexpected.

As a business owner myself, I can assure you that none of us take the lives of employees for granted nor do we remain unmarred by a failed business opportunity that had people’s livelihood at stake. You cannot always be the ultimate provider for an employee but in the end, you are an employee as well and the difference between you and the people you employee is “risk”. Your name is on the bank notes, door, articles of incorporation, leases and liability.

Most business owners gamble. Windsor gambled and lost. It’s not a new theory in start-up business and it won’t be the last in F1 either. HRT is, if rumors are correct, hanging by a thread and may not see the light of 2011 let alone the finish line of 2010. Windsor sought to enter a series that was in tumult over its control and future and based upon a cost-cap scenario. It never materialized.

I’ve gambled and lost. I’ve started businesses and while some have succeeded, others failed. I’ve earned my master’s degree the hard way, the expensive way. So too has Windsor. Owning is different than working for and the fall can be painful and take years to recover. He failed himself, his team, his partner and his employees. He’s faced the music at 120db and come out the other side of a press machine that has extracted what ounce of decorum he had left. The acidic environment of F1 is not for the weak of heart.

Should we feel sorry for Windsor? No, and I doubt he would want anyone’s sympathy unless it was focused on the employees and dream that were left adrift. Sympathy, by its very nature, is best saved for those events that are beyond one’s control. Windsor had control of his destiny and it failed to prosper just like millions of entrepreneurs before him.

The crux of my argument, based upon his words at GP Week, is that we all fail in life. We all fall short of the glory we feel we can achieve and some feel they deserve. I have a list of failures longer than my successes and if it were not for that list, I would have learned nothing in life. The press has had their way with USF1’s death and American fans have slathered Windsor with rhetoric usually saved for politicians and criminals (not mutually exclusive mind you). Is that fair? Not in my estimation but then Windsor placed himself in a position that would always be scrutinized and I think he knows that. He’s a sharp guy.

Moving forward, we all deserve a modicum of forgiveness and redemption in life. We seek redemption and reconciliation even if we are incapable of initiating it. Our latent fear in venturing forth in our attempt to succeed is meeting failure with unforgivable disdain. In this situation, that’s really not called for. Windsor attempted to achieve something no one else has managed, since Dan Gurney, and failed. Is that unforgivable? Even if people’s lives were affected through missed employment opportunities and mismanaged programs?

Uprooted families, who also bet on the come, were impacted but you take these promises in context. You know the task ahead and even promises that never came to fruition must be measured before committing your family to a new location and life. Arguments of Windsor’s promises that never came true are juxtaposed with promises Windsor himself had that never came true. Ultimately, who was the most betrayed? Windsor himself believed his dream, anchored his resources to the dream and made promises created by himself as well as shared promises made to him by others. In context, everyone was betting on the come and that’s the risk each person took regardless of promises made.

In the end, I am happy that Windsor has a new venue to offer his insight and knowledge. The folks at GP Week do a good job and they are lucky to have a guy with Windsor’s experience. I have reconciled my thoughts on USF1 and Peter Windsor. I still think he is a valuable asset to F1 and F1 journalism and find his insight intriguing. I don’t always agree but then what would life be if we all agreed? To Mr. Windsor and the staff at GP Week, I offer my congratulations and best wishes for a very successful future.

Remember, Peter, at night all cats are grey.

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