Windsor himself has been a lightning rod for criticism. To those who know him only through his work for Speed or his writing in F1 Racing, he's a strange choice for the new team's executive vice president and sporting director, no less bizarre than if Bob Costas were named manager of the New York Yankees. But, in fact, Windsor is the ultimate F1 insider, and "journalist" is just one of the many hats he's worn. "I never wrote for the sake of having a great story or scooping everybody else," he says. "Writing was just a way of getting involved in the sport and understanding how it worked. But I always felt more comfortable being part of a team and talking to the drivers than I did going to the pub with the other journalists."
Windsor was instrumental in shepherding Nigel Mansell from the low minors to the rarefied heights of Formula 1. He was the guy who pulled Frank Williams from his mangled rental car after the accident that paralyzed him. He bought Brabham from Bernie Ecclestone and briefly co-owned the team before being embroiled in notorious litigation for control of the operation. He managed the English Ferrari factory that built the cars that nearly carried Alain Prost to the world championship in 1990, and then he served as team manager when Mansell earned the title for Williams in 1992. He's made several serious, although ultimately unsuccessful, runs at creating F1, CART, and IRL teams. But despite all the highs and lows, Windsor remains as much a fan today as he was when he was a kid sitting in an empty bathtub in Sydney, pretending to be Jim Clark at the wheel of a Lotus 25.
"Peter gives his life over to Formula 1 more than anybody else I know," says British journalist Nigel Roebuck, a longtime friend. "I'm sure he spends more time thinking about motor racing than just about anybody short of Ross Brawn. It's a genuine obsession, and it was from the first day I met him. He has this extraordinary enthusiasm for the minutiae of the sport. He'll sit up halfway through the night having conversations about incredibly esoteric happenings in the past - why didn't Jean Behra wear his checkered helmet at Goodwood in 1958? There's a fairly minimal audience for that sort of thing, but Peter delights in it."
Although Windsor maintains an apartment in London with his wife, Claudia, he's constantly on the road. During the upcoming season, the team will work out of a race shop in Spain. But today, on a brisk Wednesday morning in December, Windsor is in Charlotte to attend meetings at US F1's headquarters. As usual, he's dressed fastidiously, from his Australian cricket club tie to his freshly polished boots. After leaving his hotel, he stops at a frame store to pick up a newly matted print depicting his hero, two-time F1 champ Jim Clark, with the yellow Lotus Elan he gave to Swiss journalist Jabby Crombac shortly before Clark's fatal crash in 1968. (Windsor bought the Elan from Crombac several years ago.) When he arrives at his office - where the only piece of decoration is another Jim Clark print - he eagerly opens a package containing three pairs of reproduction Jim Clark driving gloves.