CLAIRE WIL­LIAMS

This team bears her name and rac­ing is in her blood. Now, in a spe­cial Q&A ses­sion, Claire Wil­liams, daugh­ter of Sir Frank and deputy team prin­ci­pal of Wil­liams F1, takes a grilling from her pad­dock peers…

F1 Racing - - HILL ON HILL - WORDS JAMES ROBERTS PHO­TOS : GLENN DUN­BAR

At the 2014 Bahrain GP we sat down with Claire Wil­liams, deputy team prin­ci­pal of Wil­liams F1, and put to her a range of reader ques­tions. She loved it so much that when our al­lo­cated time was up, she made a point of re­turn­ing later on to en­sure ev­ery sin­gle ques­tion was an­swered ( F1 Rac­ing, June 2014).

So we thought there was a good chance of her say­ing ‘yes’ to the same thing again this year. Al­though this time it’s a slightly dif­fer­ent for­mat: the ques­tions are all from mem­bers of the F1 com­mu­nity – fel­low team prin­ci­pals, pun­dits, driv­ers past and present, and the like. And yet again she thor­oughly en­joys it, even go­ing so far as to de­lay her ar­rival at an im­por­tant spon­sor’s lunch to make sure she re­sponds to ev­ery sin­gle ques­tion – some cheeky, some se­ri­ous.

Armed with the stack of ques­tion cards we fol­low Claire to the top oor of the Wil­liams mo­torhome, dubbed the Mar­tini Ter­razza (al­though the re­cent an­nounce­ment that she is ex­pect­ing her rst child this au­tumn means she won’t be or­der­ing a cock­tail). We sit down and she ea­gerly takes the rst card. “I do re­mem­ber do­ing this with your read­ers a few years ago,” she says. “I’m very ex­cited again. Love this. Here we go, ques­tion one…”

What is your favourite mem­ory of Ginny, your dar­ling mother? Martin Brun­dle Sky pun­dit & ex-F1 racer

That’s a lovely ques­tion to start with. Ooh, tricky. So my favourite mem­ory is of go­ing on hol­i­day with my mum. It’s bor­ing, but we went to ex­actly the same place ev­ery year. It was a ho­tel that Bob War­ren [of F1 travel and lo­gis­tics agency Travel Places] found when Mum asked him to sug­gest some­where rel­a­tively easy where she could take her chil­dren on hol­i­day with­out her hus­band. He came up with the Don Pepe in Mar­bella, so we started go­ing there when I was three and we kept go­ing there right up un­til the last time she could travel. So I’d say we went around 35 times!

How does it feel to have an old man, a ‘grand­fa­ther’, as one of your driv­ers? Felipe Massa Wil­liams F1 racer

There is ab­so­lutely no way I would de­scribe Felipe like that. He is ab­so­lutely won­der­ful and I love hav­ing him in this team. I think ev­ery­one knows how im­por­tant it is for me to have ‘Wil­liams peo­ple’ here, and I was ac­tu­ally quite

THE ONE THING THAT WOULD HELP US MOST WOULD BE THE REDISTRIBUTION OF IN­COME AND COST CON­TROL IN F1. WE NEED A LEVEL PLAY­ING FIELD

scared of hav­ing him in the team ini­tially, be­cause he was Felipe Massa. But hav­ing him and his fam­ily with us is just lovely. He’s a lovely ‘boy’.

When I was driv­ing for Wil­liams and you were in the comms depart­ment, did you ever be­lieve that one day you would be run­ning the team? Marc Gené For­mer Wil­liams driver

No – you’re hav­ing a laugh, never! It wasn’t my am­bi­tion re­ally. When I was in the comms team I al­ways thought how lucky I was. Even when I rst started out in a press ofcer role, I just loved be­ing a part of this team. And I don’t care what I do; if one day some­one said to me “you can’t be deputy team prin­ci­pal any more but you have to sweep the oors”, I wouldn’t care! I would just do it. I love work­ing here. F1R: We hope it doesn’t come to that… CW: Yes, I hope not too!

How do you deal with the pres­sure of hav­ing a le­gend for a dad – and when am I get­ting my next pay rise? Rob Smed­ley Wil­liams’ head of ve­hi­cle per­for­mance

[Laughs] I Love that! Dad is a le­gend and he’s al­ways been my hero. Some­times there’s pres­sure, and I think the big­gest pres­sure on me is to pro­tect Mum and Dad’s legacy and ev­ery­thing they have sacriced for Wil­liams and the hard­ships they have gone through to cre­ate this won­der­ful team. I feel pres­sure on me to pro­tect that legacy, rather than the pres­sure of my dad be­ing this amaz­ing per­son. I’m my own per­son, I have to nd my own way and I feel okay do­ing that. I don’t feel ev­ery day: ‘Oh my god, I’m Frank Wil­liams’ daugh­ter, how am I go­ing to cope?’ Rather my dad is an amaz­ing in­spi­ra­tion and some­one who I can learn from. F1R: And when’s Rob’s next pay rise? CW: When’s Rob’s next pay rise… I think he’s just had one, hasn’t he?

When you were grow­ing up, who was your favourite Wil­liams driver? Paul Hem­bery Pirelli mo­tor­sport di­rec­tor

Nigel. It was Nigel Mansell ev­ery day of the week and it still is. When we talk about driv­ers for the fol­low­ing year, I still say: “Nigel Mansell. Bring him back!” Easy ques­tion.

De­scribe your dream man (ex­clud­ing me, of course)? Alex Wurz For­mer Wil­liams driver

Alex, of course it’s you… No, I have two. My dad and my boyfriend. F1R: Af­ter that last ques­tion, I thought you’d say: “mous­tache, Birm­ing­ham ac­cent…” CW: [Laughs] No! Thank good­ness this isn’t on TV. [She moves swiftly on to the next ques­tion from Car­los Sainz and be­gins to read it out loud] “I’m re­ally sorry I crashed into your driver [re­fer­ring to his shunt with Lance Stroll af­ter com­ing out of the Bahrain GP pit­lane] – Where can I send the cheque to?” F1R: Does it re­ally say that? CW: It does, so we’ll move on shall we?! [It doesn’t, so then Claire does move on to an­swer the real ques­tion from Mr Sainz]

Who has been the fastest driver over one lap at your team in the past ten years? Car­los Sainz Toro Rosso racer

Is he try­ing to ques­tion my knowl­edge? That’s one for my brother. Pass. What kind of a ques­tion is that? F1R: I think it’s more about, in equal ma­chin­ery, who has been the quick­est driver on tal­ent? CW: Oh, okay. Since 2007? [Long pause] I think we’ll just stick to telling him where to send his cheque…

What one thing would you change to en­able the Wil­liams team to re­turn to win­ning ways? Johnny Her­bert For­mer GP win­ner

We’re do­ing it. We’re tweak­ing things ev­ery sin­gle day to help us move for­ward. But the one thing that would help us most would be the redistribution of in­come and cost con­trol in F1. We need a level play­ing eld.

When did you de­cide that you wanted to run the team? Jonathan Palmer For­mer F1 driver

I didn’t re­ally have much choice in the mat­ter. [For­mer Wil­liams CEO] Adam Parr de­cided and then it went to the board and I didn’t re­ally feel I could say no. It was over the win­ter of 2012-13 and it was at the time when Toto Wolff was think­ing of leav­ing the team to go to Mercedes. He said to me that he would only go if he knew I could do this role and so when I was of­fered the role I knew I couldn’t turn it down be­cause it was so im­por­tant. I love Wil­liams so much, that I thought I would be able to help and so I de­cided to give it a go. And it isn’t go­ing so badly…

Are you pre­pared for the life-chang­ing mo­ment of your baby’s ar­rival? Eric Boul­lier McLaren rac­ing di­rec­tor

No [laughs] – I’ve never been more scared about any­thing in all my life; I don’t know how I’m go­ing to do it! If any­one has any ad­vice, please email me. No, hon­estly, I’m gen­uinely so ex­cited about it and I’ve put it on hold for a long time be­cause of what I wanted to achieve at Wil­liams. And this is such a fam­ily-ori­en­tated team that it’s all go­ing to be good. Ev­ery­one keeps ask­ing me whether it’s go­ing to be a new Wil­liams rac­ing driver one day, and I al­ways say: “No, it will be a Wil­liams team prin­ci­pal one day!”

How much money did Stroll pay for the seat? Ot­mar Szaf­nauer Force In­dia COO

He should know bet­ter than to be ask­ing ques­tions like that! How much does Ser­gio Pérez pay for his Force In­dia seat?

What can a woman see that a man can’t see in For­mula 1? Da­mon Hill 1996 world cham­pion

Wow. That’s a good ques­tion… We’ll have to come back to it; that’s tricky.

What was your favourite F1 mem­ory from when you were grow­ing up? Kevin Mag­nussen Haas F1 racer

F1R: I re­mem­ber you said once it was the em­bar­rass­ment of meet­ing Ayr­ton Senna in your ow­ery py­ja­mas? CW: Yup, that’s up there. Do you know the story of when Nigel Mansell came to our house? Mum was ex­cited about Nigel com­ing to visit and was al­ways proud of her gar­den. She was very keen that it looked won­der­ful

AT ABU DHABI 2014 I FELT SO MUCH PRES­SURE. IT WAS HOR­REN­DOUS. THEN, AT THE FIN­ISH, THE RE­LIEF FLOODED THROUGH ME ONCE WE SE­CURED THIRD

for Nigel, so in th­ese big stone urns she had planted some very un­usual black tulips, think­ing Nigel would be some­one who would no­tice them. Any­way, Nigel ar­rives in his chop­per and blows the head off ev­ery sin­gle tulip. She was dev­as­tated: I don’t think she ever for­gave him! There are so many bril­liant sto­ries…

Sadly we don’t have space for all of them here, but she also re­calls with great fond­ness ar­riv­ing with her par­ents at the Bri­tish GP and their car be­ing swamped by fans who wanted to get an autograph from her dad She then adds: “I’m lov­ing this; so much fun.”

What’s been the most me­morable mo­ment of your life in F1 so far? Paul Di Resta Wil­liams re­serve driver

Easy, Abu Dhabi 2014. We even­tu­ally nished third in the constructors’ cham­pi­onship, but I was so ner­vous go­ing into that week­end. We were ght­ing with Fer­rari – and it was dou­ble points for that race. It was the big­gest re­gret of my life, vot­ing for a dou­ble points nale in that Strat­egy Group meet­ing! Just be­fore the race I was re­ally ner­vous, and I went into the garage to wish all the boys luck and they were like: “What’s wrong with you? Claire, calm down. We’ve got this, it’s ne.”

I spent the whole race dream­ing of third. We’d done so much work and we hadn’t had that amount of suc­cess for so long. Mum wasn’t there, Dad wasn’t at that race ei­ther – and I felt so much pres­sure. It was hor­ren­dous.

Then, at the nish, the re­lief ooded through me once we’d se­cured third. We got both our driv­ers on the podium and it was a won­der­ful mo­ment that I will never for­get. We cel­e­brated on top of the hos­pi­tal­ity unit that night and sprayed cham­pagne – it was so much fun.

At this point, it’s agreed be­tween Claire and Wil­liams’ head of comms So­phie Ogg that some of the juicier de­tails of the evening must, sadly, re­main a se­cret.

Will you hire me? Ser­gio Pérez Force In­dia racer

Any day of the week. F1R: You should ask him how much money he’s bring­ing… CW: No!

Has Nigel Mansell ever shown you any of his magic tricks? Karun Chand­hok Chan­nel 4 F1 pun­dit

He’s shown my mum be­cause, very sweetly, he used to visit her when she was very ill. He would turn up with his case of magic tricks and spend a lot of time with her, which was re­ally nice. I don’t think he’s shown me; he owes me one. But ev­ery time he got in the car in 1992 was a magic trick, wasn’t it?

Claire is keen to con­tinue and pro­tect the legacy of her fa­ther, Frank Wil­liams, and late mother Ginny, who cre­ated the Wil­liams team

A dream come true: Wil­liams fin­ish P3 in the team stand­ings in 2014

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