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Frank Williams Q&A: We must capitalise on 2014 'reset'

06 Mar 2014

After a miserable 2013, some impressive winter testing form has put Williams among the surprise pre-season favourites for 2014 and the upbeat mood at the team was elevated higher on Thursday with the announcement of new title sponsors Martini and the unveiling of an instantly iconic livery on the Mercedes-powered FW36. But what does team founder and principal Sir Frank Williams really make of the changes?

Q: The team will be racing with a new name and an exciting new look this season. What was it about the Martini brand that made you want to form a close partnership?

Frank Williams: I firmly believe that a team needs strong synergies with its title partner and we certainly have that with Martini. Their heritage in motor racing is well known, with their famous stripes adorning many championship winning race cars in different categories. Like Williams, Martini are a family owned business and it is this independent, family run feel that makes Williams stand out and generates a lot of goodwill amongst fans. The excitement amongst fans and the media about this new partnership has been remarkable.

Q: 2014 has witnessed some of the most significant regulation changes the sport has seen in recent years. How have the team coped with this challenge?

FW: Work on the FW36 began towards the end of 2012 to make sure we were fully prepared for the new regulations. This winter has been one of the most hectic in recent memory for all teams, but I’m extremely proud of how our team has met the challenge. The new power units are perhaps the biggest change and we have been working closely with Mercedes to understand the power unit and how to package it most effectively in to the car. There have also been other significant changes to the gearbox and aero regulations which will impact the handling and performance of the cars compared to 2013. The development and production of the FW36 has been painstakingly planned and the fact that we were one of the first teams to fire up our new challenger back in January was particularly pleasing.

Q: Williams will be using Mercedes power units for the first time this season. What are your impressions of this new relationship so far?

FW: I know I speak for the entire team in saying how impressed we have been with Mercedes HPP so far, both in terms of the product they have developed and the working relationship between us. As a world-class brand they are pushing hard to make sure they produce the best power unit on the grid, and that relentless drive will be very beneficial to us.

The new V6 power units are very sophisticated pieces of technology that are really pushing hybrid technology to the extremes. As we have seen from testing, the Mercedes power unit is running reliably and efficiently, which will be very important in the first few races of the season as the teams try to fully understand their cars.

Q: The highly experienced Felipe Massa joins the team for the 2014 season. What was it about Felipe that made you want to bring him to Williams?

FW: Felipe has been one of the sport’s leading talents over the past decade and he brings with him a cool head and a wealth of experience, both in terms of developing a car and getting the most out of it during a Grand Prix weekend. He still has a lot of hunger and his passion for racing immediately struck me when we were in talks last year. I love working with pure racers and Felipe is firmly in that category. He also has an easy charm and has settled in very quickly amongst the team.

Q: Valtteri retains his drive for 2014 in what will be his second season in Formula One. What qualities does he bring and how do you think he will complement Felipe?

FW: Valtteri has been part of the Williams family for four years now and from the very beginning we knew that we had a special talent on our hands. He is a typical Finn, cool under pressure with a natural gift for car control. Unfortunately we were not able to give him the sort of car last season that could showcase his true potential, but there were still occasions such as qualifying at the Canadian and United States Grands Prix where he performed remarkably and impressed a lot of people. With a full season under his belt, and what we are confident will be a more competitive package, I’m sure we will see Valtteri produce some strong results. I think our driver line-up complements each other very well and I’m looking forward to seeing them push each other this season.

Q: Williams have now completed three pre-season tests. What are the initial impressions of the FW36?

FW: It’s always dangerous to make predictions for the season based on what has been seen in testing as everyone is running different programmes. What I do know is that despite a few inevitable teething problems, the FW36 has performed reliably and clocked up a good number of laps. The regulation changes have forced the teams to take a step in to the unknown this year. Reliability will be paramount in the first few races of the season and we are looking strong in that regard. Performance wise we will only know where we sit when we get to Australia.

Q: 2013 did not bring the sort of results expected of a team like Williams. What changes have been made over the winter to make sure 2014 will be a better season for the team?

FW: The first step was making a number of high profile appointments in our aerodynamics and engineering departments over the winter, to augment existing talent. We have also had a strong winter commercially, bringing on board a number of new partners. Both internally and externally there is a feeling of positive change at Williams. We have shown over the past few months that as a company we are not afraid to embrace change in our goal to get back to winning ways.

Q: 2014 promises to be an exciting and highly unpredictable season. As team principal, what goals are you setting for Williams and what results will you be happy with by the time we reach Abu Dhabi in November?

FW: A team like Williams Martini Racing, with our history, facilities, and personnel, should be mixing it up at the sharp end of the grid. 2014’s regulation changes have reset the field to some extent and we need to capitalise on this opportunity. I’m under no illusion that it will take time for our new technical team to make their mark, but I will be looking for us to make a strong improvement from last year and regularly finish in the points at a wide range of circuits.