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Exclusive Claire Williams Q&A: Red Bull can be caught

20 Jul 2014

Williams’ dazzling run of form continued in Germany with Valtteri Bottas notching his third successive podium finish. The Finn’s second place lifted the Grove-based squad above Ferrari in the constructors’ standings, but as deputy team principal Claire Williams explains in this exclusive interview, Williams have already got their eye on catching second-placed Red Bull…

Q: Claire, a mixed race for Williams - a brilliant second place for Valtteri Bottas but Felipe Massa retired on the first lap. But at least you got to see them both in the post-qualifying press conference which hasn’t happened to Williams for a long time. How did that feel?

Claire Williams: First of all I want to say that I am happy that Felipe is well because they were quite spectacular images [of his crash]. Coming back to the question; actually many different things were going through my mind. We’ve had that consistent success in the past few races. We’ve built up from the start of the season, and you might think that you get used to that, but no. We are still pinching ourselves sometimes - you know, ‘Is this really where we are now?’ - and that is exciting. I feel an enormous amount of pride for everybody in the team - we are such an incredible bunch of people. We’ve stuck together through thick and thin - and finally getting to where we are now is a fantastic reward for all the hard work. We are hopefully sailing into a successful future!

Q: How is Frank’s mood? After many years of standstill you’re finally having a performance explosion…

CW: Frank is really enjoying it. It is completely different when you’re going racing and you know you can compete properly - and score points. It is fantastic for him to see his team having such a revival.

Q: Williams are now third in the constructors’ standings having finished ninth last season - that’s a huge leap. Can you analyse who and what was the driving force behind that?

CW: It is an incredible turnaround, true, but we are also aware that we are not quite there yet. There have been mainly four areas that we looked at last year in our drive to put the team back to where we want to be. Of course the Mercedes power unit was a significant factor, then bringing in a new group of senior engineering personal to add to the existing strength that we had, led by Pat Symonds. Then bringing Felipe Massa in. We have a very strong driver line-up! They bring so much to the team - not just from the car development perspective but also from a motivational aspect. The team is very much working around these two great drivers that we have now racing for us. And last but not least the commercial element has also played a part. The Martini partnership has really dusted off and refreshed our look - and together we are now a very strong outfit that will give us the chance to get back to where we want to be.

Q: In the last three races Williams has bagged 63 points - only Mercedes have achieved more…

CW: Oh, I was not aware of that - that is brilliant!

Q: Is that an indication that right now Williams is the second-best team on the grid?

CW: I think that is for other people to judge. But I think when Pat does his analysis and tells us the facts about this car that it all sounds very promising. But of course we want to have the fastest car on the grid, and we judge our performance by our position in the constructors’ championship. As of today we are third, five points ahead of Ferrari.

Q: Before the race Ferrari were three points ahead of Williams - were they easy prey this weekend?

CW: There is no easy prey in Formula One, but yes, three points is an achievable amount [to overhaul] isn’t it? The target was to take P3 in the constructors’ championship. Red Bull is only sixty-seven points ahead of us - and they are in P2 - and with the current point system there is no reason why we can’t be fighting for P2 this year!

Q: Could it be that the double points at the last race could very much play to your advantage?

CW: They could - but that also goes for others!

Q: We’re at the halfway point of the season - what can you say about the qualities of each of your two drivers? Valtteri has contributed 51 points compared to Felipe’s 12.

CW: Felipe is delivering what we hoped that he would deliver and bring to the team: the experience that he has in F1. He has done a huge amount of work with the engineering department to develop the car. It is a real inspiration to everybody in the team bringing in somebody of his caliber. It was a very strong message that we wanted to deliver to the team and the world that we are very serious about our goals. And Valtteri is just doing an amazing job. He is only in his second year and he has taken three podiums for the team. We believe he is a world champion in the making - it is so exciting to have him with us. And the two - Felipe and Valtteri - work fantastic together. We could not be happier with our driver line-up.

Q: So Felipe is not feeling a bit uncomfortable that his young team mate is running away with all the points?

CW: Not at all! Felipe is doing a great job - he’s just suffered from some really bad luck. He is mature enough - and has enough experience in the sport - to realise that sometimes things don’t go your way. It isn’t getting him down…

Q: …and Valtteri, as a Finn, probably doesn’t have it in his DNA to get carried away by good results…

CW: …he is so cool, that boy. He is wonderful. After qualifying he came up to me with a wink and said ‘did you like that, Claire?’ He is brilliant. When he overtakes he never takes risks - but always delivers. He is such a smooth driver. He is fabulous when it comes to tyre management and if there is something wrong with the car he always looks to nurse it home - that is all you can ask for from your driver.

Q: So at the halfway point of the season, Williams is in much better shape than it has been in years. How are you expecting the second half to go? Do you have enough up your sleeves to compete with the development speed of Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren?

CW: Yes. There is no reason why we can’t. We have always been a team that has developed our cars over the course of the season - and we have got resources in-house. So there is no reason why we shouldn’t continue doing what we are doing now and build on the consistency that we have now. I definitely think that we can keep this momentum going. Where we are now is a far cry from where we were at the same time last year!