Claire Williams Q&A
HOW HAS THE WINTER BEEN COMMERCIALLY FOR WILLIAMS?
It has been strong for us. Whenever you underperform on the race track it can be very difficult to engage existing and prospective partners, but actually it’s been a fairly successful winter. We’re lucky in that we have a loyal group of partners who are committed to the team and we’ve also managed to bring in some new partners. We aren’t in a position to announce them just yet but we are looking forward to doing so in the coming weeks before we head to Australia. Overall we are pleased with the job we’ve done, but that’s not to say there isn’t still work to do. There is always work to do when you are trying to find the budget to keep an independent team racing but we are happy with where we are at the moment.
WITH NEW APPOINTMENTS IN TOP LEVEL ENGINEERS, WHAT IS THE DIRECTION THAT WILLIAMS ARE TRYING TO TAKE WITH THIS?
Williams’ philosophy in motorsport has always been about winning, both races and world championships. Our current objective is to get the team back to winning ways so the changes that we have made over the past nine months have all been done with the intention to take us in that direction. Winning races isn’t a short-term project, there are never any quick solutions, but this is part of a big change in Williams’ history and it’s all with the goal of moving us back up the grid.
HOW HAVE WILLIAMS FOCUSED ON IMPROVING FROM LAST YEAR?
In a number of ways. The majority of changes have come from augmenting the technical team we have at Williams. We have a really strong and capable group of designers, aerodynamicists and engineers, but it became clear that we needed to support the people that we have, and to structure the team in a more productive and efficient way.
In addition we also have a new driver line-up this year in the shape of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Felipe is a huge talent in our sport with a great deal of experience and we believe he will be instrumental in driving this team forward. Retaining Valtteri also gives us stability and we know he has the talent to get the job done.
With the new engine regulations coming in this year we also needed to look at our options and decide which package was best for our team. We took the decision to go with the Mercedes power unit for 2014 and to enter into a long-term partnership with them which we are really excited about. Mercedes is a great brand and we believe that with the changes around the powertrain regulations for this year, Mercedes will be in the best position to help take us to where we want to get to.
We have also made some changes to the way we operate commercially and refreshed who we are and what we look like. This is a new chapter for our team and everything we have done is for the sole purpose of moving us back up the grid.
TESTING IS IMPORTANT, MORE SO THIS YEAR, WHAT IS THE MAIN FOCUS IN JEREZ?
Because of the regulation overhaul, the first test in Jerez is one of the most important pre-season tests that the sport has had in a number of years. This car is a complete revolution; it’s not an evolution from a previous year so the engineers and drivers are going to be under a considerable amount of pressure. We will be concentrating on systems checks to make sure everything is functioning as it should and then working towards reliability, which is going to be a potential game changer, certainly in the early races of the season. It’s going to be fascinating to see where everybody is over the coming weeks.
HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT FOR WILLIAMS TO GET THE CAR READY FOR THE FIRST TEST?
Considering the number of changes we have made to the team over the past year, and based on where we were last year, I think we have had a relatively smooth winter. The car has been in production for much longer than a normal new car would have been and I feel we are ready. That’s due to the efforts of the 550 people who have worked so hard over the past 18 months on this car – everyone has put in 100 percent.
HOW HAS THE MERCEDES PARTNERSHIP DEVELOPED SO FAR?
We are a group of people with a very similar vision and they have been great to work with. Renault were a good partner and it’s always a concern when making a change, but Mercedes have been nothing but supportive and helpful in everything we need to do. They have a lot of pressure on them at the moment to develop the new power unit, but they have always been as efficient and as effective as you would imagine Mercedes to be.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIFIC GOALS OR AIMS FOR 2014?
We have to make progress. I think that’s the single most important message for this year. We finished ninth in the championship last year and that was disappointing for everybody at Grove. We all know we have to do better; there is no alternative.
WITH FELIPE MASSA AS A NEW DRIVER WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM HIS FIRST SEASON?
When I first met Felipe, he was just a pleasure to talk to, to work with and to be around. He’s a regular visitor already to the factory and engages everyone with his passion and determination. That has provided a real lift and is invaluable as we move forward. Everyone is aware of his skill on the race track and technical capability in developing a car so it is those two attributes we will be looking to leverage this season.
WITH VALTTERI NOW IN HIS SECOND SEASON, HOW HAVE THE TEAMS EXPECTATIONS CHANGED TOWARDS HIS PERFORMANCE?
This year provides the team with an opportunity to give Valtteri a car that can truly show his potential and talent. Our expectations for him this year are to do what he needs to do to score points for the team and to help drive us forward in the championship.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW RULES, AND THE LOOK OF THE CAR?
Whenever Formula One makes significant changes to its regulations it creates instability in a positive way because it enables the technical teams to really test their skills and push the boundaries of what is possible. It will be fascinating to see what they come up with.