Claire Wil­liams


The deputy team prin­ci­pal and daugh­ter of Sir Frank on keep­ing Wil­liams in the fam­ily, en­cour­ag­ing more women into F1 – and why win­ners never make their own beds…

When we rst en­quired whether Claire Wil­liams would like to be in­ter­viewed by the read­ers of F1 Rac­ing, her im­me­di­ate re­sponse was: “What on earth will they want to ask me?”

But as Claire was to dis­cover when we sat down with her at the Bahrain Grand Prix, you’re a cu­ri­ous lot – and cer­tainly not back­wards about com­ing for­wards. Hence in among queries about the Wil­liams fam­ily ruth­less streak and those wince-in­duc­ing team or­ders to Felipe Massa in Malaysia, there were a num­ber of mar­riage pro­pos­als – adroitly han­dled, in­ci­den­tally, with a “Yes – but only if you ask my dad for per­mis­sion.”

In fact, so much did the Wil­liams deputy team prin­ci­pal rel­ish her in­ter­ro­ga­tion-by-reader, that when our al­lot­ted time was up and she was called away to give an in­ter­view for Brazil­ian tele­vi­sion, she re­turned later, to en­sure ev­ery ques­tion was an­swered. And this, dear reader, is how they started…

Are your fam­ily’s con­nec­tions within the team a help or a hin­drance?

Paul Hayes, UK I can’t be­lieve this is the rst one – that’s so tricky! It’s twofold. I think it’s very im­por­tant that we are seen as a fam­ily team. It’s im­por­tant that there are dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions within that and to make sure the DNA of the Wil­liams fam­ily continues. But, per­son­ally, it is some­times a hin­drance be­cause there have been ac­cu­sa­tions that I’m only in the job be­cause of my sur­name. When I rst started, it wasn’t like that. Frank didn’t want me work­ing at Wil­liams so he gave me a hard time. But I love my job and I’m lucky to work here, so I won’t com­plain ei­ther way.

Do you pos­sess the same ruth­less streak as your fa­ther?

Jonathan Reynolds, UK No, I don’t think so. But I don’t think Dad was par­tic­u­larly ruth­less ei­ther. He just al­ways did what­ever was in the best in­ter­ests of his team. And that’s what I will al­ways do. Whether that’s re­garded as ruth­less… well, it’s a ruth­less, cut­throat sport, isn’t it? You some­times have to make hard de­ci­sions. For ex­am­ple, you build a re­la­tion­ship with a driver and for what­ever rea­son it doesn’t al­ways work out. I was close to Pas­tor Mal­don­ado last year and it was difcult for me to see him go but, at the end of the day, that’s what we are paid to do: our jobs.

Pas­tor Mal­don­ado. Dis­cuss.

Paul Cox, UK He’s a lovely guy and I think he gets a bad rap in For­mula 1. I have a soft spot for him, maybe be­cause I was his press ofcer when he joined Wil­liams in 2011, but I see the chal­lenges he faces that a lot of people don’t, be­cause he tends to keep quiet about them. He’s pro­tec­tive of his sit­u­a­tion, but that guy has the weight of his na­tion [Venezuela] rest­ing on his shoul­ders and he car­ries it re­ally well. All he wants to do is win. He has that sin­gle-minded fo­cus and I have a

huge amount of re­spect for how he deals with that. And I per­son­ally wouldn’t have a bad word to say about him.

Did you ever get to meet Ayr­ton Senna?

Nick Warner, UK I was a teenage girl when Ayr­ton was around and I re­mem­ber talk of him com­ing to Wil­liams. I’ve heard from Dad what he was like and how he was al­ways one step ahead in things like salary ne­go­ti­a­tion. I had huge ad­mi­ra­tion for the way he went about things. He was so ded­i­cated, so de­ter­mined, so sin­gle-mind­edly fo­cused on ev­ery­thing. I was lucky to have mem­o­ries of driv­ers like Ayr­ton com­ing to the house and stuff like that. Al­though it’s a lit­tle em­bar­rass­ing when you’re 14, you meet your child­hood hero for the rst time and you’re in your py­ja­mas.

This sea­son, Susie Wolff will be driv­ing in two prac­tice ses­sions for Wil­liams. Can you see women racers com­pet­ing in F1 within the next ve years?

Liam Higgs, UK I don’t know. I think it’s up to women to come out and show us what they can do. It’s all about com­ing up through the ranks in the ju­nior for­mu­lae. I don’t think there are a huge num­ber out there who are do­ing that, but the more who do it, the higher the like­li­hood of them get­ting into F1. We need to en­cour­age them to come up through rac­ing as then we’ll be more likely to see one of them in For­mula 1. It would be great to see a fe­male driver in F1, it’s been too long. [The last woman to qual­ify for and start a world cham­pi­onship grand prix was Lella Lom­bardi in Aus­tria 1976 – she nished 12th.]

What part of “Valt­teri is faster than you” did Felipe Massa not un­der­stand in the Malaysian Grand Prix?

Paulo Felix, Por­tu­gal I think he did un­der­stand it, but I don’t think he un­der­stood why he was given that mes­sage be­cause it wasn’t ex­plained to him and that’s where we let our driv­ers down. So I love the fact that Felipe came on the ra­dio and said: “I am go­ing faster.” The only thing I want to say about it is that we did hold our hands up af­ter the event. We said we’d made a mis­take. We rectied it and we’ll move for­ward from there. F1R: Were you sur­prised at the neg­a­tive re­ac­tion to the call? CW: Not re­ally. I’m dis­ap­pointed that we cre­ated a sit­u­a­tion that gen­er­ated neg­a­tiv­ity to­wards us, be­cause we’re lucky to have such great fans. To make a mis­take like that so early on in the sea­son when people want to see Wil­liams do well, I’m dis­ap­pointed we did that to our fans. I hope they will for­give us and con­tinue to sup­port us.

Have you ever wanted to drive an F1 car? You’re the boss – you can!

Jakub Kurowski, Poland It’s re­ally weird, and I don’t think I should say this, but I’ve never wanted to. They are so com­pli­cated, so ex­pen­sive and so valu­able – you don’t just get in and drive it. The guys who do, blow me away. I’ve al­ways been in awe of rac­ing driv­ers and I’ve never felt that I could do what they do. I also know that if I crashed it, my dad would never talk to me again. Could you imag­ine the head­lines… it would be mor­ti­fy­ing. It’s bad enough wor­ry­ing about crash­ing my own car.

“It’s up to women to come out and show us what they can do. It’s all about com­ing up through the ranks in the ju­nior for­mu­lae”

Has a For­mula 1 driver ever asked you out on a date, or have they all been too scared of your fa­ther?

Matt Lloyd, UK [Laughs] Bril­liant! I love this one. No. No F1 driver has ever asked me out on a date. I’m go­ing to say that it’s be­cause they’re all scared of FW rather than them hav­ing no in­ter­est in me!

Do you nd it stress­ful or en­joy­able to watch the races?

Robert Wood, USA I was at a wed­ding once when some­one asked me what I did and I told them I worked at Wil­liams. They said: “My God, is Frank as much of an ar­se­hole in real life as he looks on the TV? Why does he pull those grumpy ex­pres­sions?” And I had to say: “I’m so em­bar­rassed to tell you this, but that ar­se­hole is my dad!” And he’s not, it’s just that he’s do­ing his job. When any­one else is at work, they don’t sit at their com­puter screens with a happy, jovial look on their face, do they? So I know I might look a bit pan­icked on the TV, but we are ght­ing for points and ght­ing for our team. If we don’t do well on the race­track, we might not get the budget for next year, so of course I’m stressed when I watch a race.

Were you sad to see Dickie Stan­ford [a Wil­liams stal­wart since 1985] leave?

Steve Bates, UK I re­ally was, but he hasn’t left al­to­gether. He’s go­ing to be do­ing some­thing else within the team. He can never leave – he’s too much a part of the fur­ni­ture. I’ve al­ways con­sid­ered Dickie to be a sur­ro­gate dad. He’s al­ways looked af­ter me, es­pe­cially when I came to races as a kid. In so many ways he has done so much for Wil­liams – he’s a part of our his­tory.

Did you pass your driv­ing test rst time?

Bruce Nut­ter, UK [Laughs] I didn’t. I went round a round­about with­out due care and at­ten­tion and got a big red cross on my form. I was re­ally an­noyed. But I passed sec­ond time. I used to be a much more condent and speedy driver than I am now, but as you get a lit­tle bit older you be­come more se­date. Ac­tu­ally I’d like to do an ad­vanced driv­ing course. That would be good fun.

Not a ques­tion, a re­quest: Please never sell the team. Keep Wil­liams for­ever.

Ale­jan­dro Jorge Ortu, Ar­gentina Well it’s not mine to sell, it’s Frank’s. But as ev­ery­one knows, Frank has been rac­ing for 45 years. Wil­liams is in our fam­ily and I hope it’s al­ways go­ing to stay in our fam­ily – the team is like an­other brother or sis­ter. We are the ma­jor­ity share­hold­ers in the com­pany and I al­ways want Wil­liams DNA in our team. F1R: What is the cur­rent make-up of the share­hold­ing? CW: Toto Wolff has 16 per cent, Patrick has about nine per cent, 21 per cent is on the stock ex­change. Frank has 52 per cent and there are a few mi­nor share­hold­ers who own the re­main­der.

If you could choose two Wil­liams driv­ers from any era and run them to­gether as team-mates, who would they be and why?

Anna Hunt, UK Easy. Juan Pablo Mon­toya and Nigel Mansell. I ab­so­lutely love them both. F1R: Wouldn’t that be a nightmare? CW: It would be fan­tas­tic fun! It would be two rac­ing driv­ers who were brutes in the car. They’re bullish, they do want they want to do, and, yes, it would be difcult to man­age – but that’s part of the fun, right? I’m still in touch with both of them: they were bril­liant char­ac­ters and ar­che­typal Wil­liams driv­ers through and through. They were fan­tas­tic driv­ers in their era and to see them as a pair­ing in equal ma­chin­ery would be fan­tas­tic. It wouldn’t be an easy life, but I like a chal­lenge.

How do you un­wind in your spare time?

Jayson Cahill, UK I watch the Sky F1 chan­nel… I’m such a loser! [Laughs] For­mula 1 is an ad­dic­tion isn’t it? You think you can’t wait to come home from a weekend but, ac­tu­ally, when you get home you just want to go back. But I love be­ing at home and in my house and clos­ing the door on the world and just chill­ing out and watch­ing crap TV. I love re­al­ity shows like Made in Chelsea and I have a bad habit of watch­ing game shows like Su­per­mar­ket Sweep and Fam­ily For­tunes. I did ask Ver­non Kay if I we could go on Fam­ily For­tunes – al­though I don’t think Dad would agree to it. Paul Culp, USA Michael Schu­macher. I’ve met him only a few times, and ev­ery time he has been so gen­er­ous and so con­sid­er­ate. We went to an event at his Ker­pen kart track in 2000, and he spent the whole af­ter­noon look­ing af­ter us.

We’ve had a lot of lovely guys rac­ing for us at Wil­liams. My mother used to be quite in­stru­men­tal in some of the driver de­ci­sions. She over­head one con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Dad and Patrick over a cer­tain driver they were go­ing to hire. They had agreed to phone him the next morn­ing and of­fer him a con­tract.

A few weeks ear­lier, he had stayed over at our house to dis­cuss the drive. Mum said to Frank: “You can­not em­ploy that driver!” Dad said: “Why not?” and Mum replied: “Be­cause he made his own bed when he came to stay. Win­ners don’t make their own beds!” Dad ig­nored her, em­ployed him any­way and he wasn’t that good. I can’t re­mem­ber who it was, it may have been Thierry Bout­sen…

Among the F1 driv­ers you’ve known, who was the most hum­ble?

Felipe Massa leads the al­legedly “faster than you” Valt­teri Bot­tas in Malaysia

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