We're now into the latter stretch of the 2015 Formula 1 season - how would you evaluate Williams' year so far?

Claire Williams
I think off the back of where we finished in 2014, we probably had higher hopes for the start of the year, but I think we've actually done a pretty good job based on our competition and our competitor's budgets. We're still in third and that's pretty good. Also, we have to remember where we were in 2013 and what we did achieve in 2014. The fact that we are still in that third position is a massive achievement for a team that has the resources we do. There are teams that have bigger resources than us that are further down the grid, so I think we should be pleased with the job we've done. It' definitely a job of consolidation but I think we're going into the second half of the year hoping for a few more podiums; and a race win would be lovely.'
The team has freely admitted it didn't take advantage of certain situations in 2014 - has improving Williams from an operational point of view been a particular focus?

Claire Williams
I think what you have to realise and understand is that in F1 when you're operating a team that is running in 7th, 8th, 9th, you have very different operational procedures, particularly trackside on the pit wall than when you're operating at a much higher level and you're fighting for race wins and podiums. Winning in Formula One is about getting every single element of your race operation right and that takes time, particularly when you take into consideration that you operate very differently when you're running at the back of the field. It all takes time for everything to come together and to hone every procedure that you have and to make sure every resource is working in the way that it needs to work. It does take time and so inevitably, this is a learning curve for us as much as it is anything else. It's about getting every area of the operation right so we're still going through that process. I don't know if we were caught off guard but it's a learning process. As long as we don't make the same mistakes twice, then I am happy with where we are.
Are you pleased with how the car has progressed this year so far?

Claire Williams
I am really pleased by two things on that. The pathway towards bringing upgrades to the track, we do it in a very different way to the way we've done it in the past, to make sure that we do everything effectively and efficiently, behind the scenes before we even contemplate bringing anything to the track. That has really helped drive our performance and made us a much leaner organisation, operating in the way in which we operate and with the resources we have, that's critical. So we don't just bring a part to the track and pray and hope, or have expectations that it might work just because the tunnel says it will. It goes through a very vigorous procedure back at base before it comes to the circuit; that has really helped improve our performance.

Then each of those parts that we have bought to the circuit have helped drive the performance and given that upturn over the rest of the year. With the job that the guys back at the factory are doing, there is no let up. We started building, developing and designing the '38' which is next year's car, much earlier than we ever have. So they've had to run these two programmes in parallel and you see we are now two thirds of the way through the year and we're still bringing upgrades, we're still driving performance in the car and we have a strong pathway throughout the remaining races. I'm really pleased at the way that we are performing in the development race.
What's behind the motivation to start next year's car so early?

It's probably to do with the fact that from 2017 we know the way the technical regulations are going to go and of course there are changes. We know we've got a really good platform in the car that we have and that we've developed over this period of technical regulations. So it's really important that we capitalise on the stability we have got in the regulations, so that's one area. Another is to get a jump on it, so the two combined, so hopefully 2016 will be a good year off the back of that for us."
Given the links to Ferrari, how pleased are you to have retained Valtteri Bottas for 2016?

Claire Williams
I'm really happy with him and the whole team is and we've always said from the very beginning, from any of these conversations that have gone on, that it's flattering for a driver to be looked at by a team like Ferrari but also, that we've always wanted to keep him. Ever since he joined the team, he has been a critical part of this overturn of the team and so losing him would have been really disappointing for us. I'm really pleased he is staying with us; it's what we wanted all along. He's done a great job, as he's always done for us this year, the podium in Austria and he's a fundamental part of the development of the car. He has great relationships, he gets on with everybody, and so I'm really pleased. I would like for him to now move forward and get some more podiums in the latter part of the season and to hopefully get his first race win for us.'
Given many anticipated Felipe was entering the twilight of his career when he joined Williams, how impressed have you been at his performances since joining?

Claire Williams
I wouldn't say he is in the twilight of his career. I hate the word re-birth but [he is having a] renaissance. I was so pleased that he agreed to join our team. For us, where we were, for Felipe to take that risk on us, that was a real coup for Williams, to attract someone with his level of experience. I think what he's managed to achieve, it's like a new beginning for him, I think for both of us. We came together at completely the right time and I think there were doubters in the paddock who probably did think he was in the twilight but I think he has proven everybody wrong. It has been a new beginning; it's a team that suits him really well and that he has said many times that it's a team he feels comfortable in. He's a great personality fit for us. Personally, I enjoy working with him immensely and I know I everyone else does. I think when you have that kind of relationship, it's just easy. This is a very easy team and a very easy environment for the drivers, everyone here is just doing what they love and I think that permeates through everything we do. That provides a really strong stage for optimising performance capabilities we have in house. I think Felipe has done a brilliant job and by far, exceeded expectations with Williams and he is a great driver to have around.
As for your development drivers, what is the plan for Alex Lynn? Is there a long-term future for him at Williams?

Claire Williams
Whenever we're looking at a new driver, it's never necessarily a short-term issue for us. It's always about trying to develop and find the next talent and always thinking about succession. Alex's career history talked for itself when we were looking at who was out on the market and the fact that he is British, my dream is a British World Champion in a British team. For us, the focus has to be this year for him, to evaluate his performance, he needs to do what he's got to do in GP2 and then we take it from there at the end of the year. For me, the focus has been the race drivers at the moment and then we start thinking about the development path for our other drivers that we have in our group.
How about Susie Wolff?

Claire Williams
She's been a great driver and a great ambassador. She has completed all the work she needed to do in the car but she still has got a lot of work to do behind the scenes. She plays a critical part in the development of the car behind the scenes in the factory and in the simulator. There are still months to go for her, for that, then we'll have conversations no doubt in the near future but nothing has been decided or even talked about.
Given Williams' highly-publicised struggles in 2013, how much pride have you taken from steering the team back towards the front?

Claire Williams
Formula One is always a team effort and it is never, ever, about one person. There are such brilliant people that work at Williams, at all levels from the board, the senior managers and to everybody else in the team. 550 people make up Williams and it takes 550 people to get our two race cars to the grid. So its not personal pride, it's like a family-team pride that I have. When I remember the conversations I was having with everybody at Williams that year in 2013, it was horrendous, but they all stood by us and we were so lucky that we had that. Everybody believing that something exciting is coming and we will stick by the team. That for me that was the pride in my team rather than in any sort of personal pride. There are far brighter people than me in this team that effected that change. I'm just happy that we are now where we are and this is hopefully us turning a corner and we can go on to fight for race wins and a Championship.
With Mercedes turning down a potential Red Bull customer supply because it doesn't want to assist what it considers to be an arch rival, does that devalue Williams' efforts?

Claire Williams
Toto and other members of Mercedes that we talk to, have a great relationship with Mercedes and HPP. Toto has always said to us, 'Come on guys, come and fight us' and I think they would like nothing more than that for us and that's our responsibility to take the fight to them. I'm not in a position to comment on the conversations that are going on between Red Bull and Mercedes, that's not for us. We're in Formula One and despite our limited resources, we'll always take the fight to those bigger teams regardless of what engine they've got.
Do you feel Williams remains an attractive proposition for any potential incoming manufacturers, such as it was with BMW?

Claire Williams
At the moment we're really happy with our supplier, Mercedes, they're the best engine on the grid but you can never say never in Formula One. You never know what's going to come round the corner but at the moment we're really happy with Mercedes and we want to keep working on it and take the fight to them like Toto said he wants us to do.
The latest set of regulations have been kind to Williams - how confident are you that it can continue its front-running from when the proposed changes for 2017 are introduced?

Claire Williams
We're lucky that we're on the Strategy Group, so that we have sight of what those are and we can help direct and shape them. I have total confidence in the team that I've got at Williams, they're smart guys. We've got one of the most stable and strongest engineering groups and I see no reason why if we may have a change in regulations, what we can't have that. Pat Symonds is one of the greatest technical directors out there, who leads a really strong team who are all really excited about those new regulations. And it shakes it up and that for us, that's really important that we can create a new set of regulations that makes the sport so competitive, then that's what we want.
On a more personal level, what's your vision for Formula One?

Claire Williams
If you asked me from Williams then I'd like to be two seconds ahead of everyone else but that's not great for the sport. I want to see a really strong grid, of really competitive race cars and for Formula One, different winners each weekend. Of course, that is going to make viewers tune in and I think the proposed 2017 regulation changes will go a long way towards this. I've said this countless times but Formula One is still an amazing sport and if you strip away negative commentary and just look at it, look at Hungary, my god it was one of the most exciting races, Silverstone as well. When it goes right, this sport is still a fantastic sport.

Where do you think this negative talk is coming from?

Claire Williams
I think negative commentary in the press doesn't help. I don't really want to answer that question because then you're pointing negative fingers at me [laughs]. I think we could do a better job, all of us, in the sport, everyone engaged in it, whether that teams, media, whoever, could do a better job. I do think it has died down a bit now though, that negative commentary has quietened down a bit now.
You've been quoted as saying you want to see more input from fans on the direction of the sport - do you think F1 is capitalising on its potential with a wider audience?

Claire Williams
I think Formula 1 is a wonderful world we all live in, yet it's not accessible to a lot of people. I think if Formula One were to engage in a collective manner, I know as teams, we all do a great job individually, but as a collective group if we were to take the F1 experience out by using digital and social channels. I think it's a phenomenal amount, like 78 per cent of people, that watch a race, will have a tablet or a phone and will be on some website to get more information. People just want more content and so if we were to embrace that in a different way, in a bigger way, then I think that would really engage a new audience. With a younger generation, that's how they consume content, consume TV, consume sport, consume media at the end of the day. We need to be doing bigger and better things.
You have a degree in politics, so did you have any other career path in mind rather than coming into the 'family business'?

Claire Williams
I didn't really have any plans. I think it is difficult when you're younger and if you don't have a set career path in mind, you don't want your traditional lawyers, doctors, journalists whatever, I didn't have that. So Politics was just one of those degrees that you chose if you didn't really know what to do. It certainly wasn't because I had any ambitions to be a politician or prime minister. But Williams, equally, when I was a kid I was told 'Don't you even think about it. You're not coming to work for the family business', so Formula One was out, Williams was out and I didn't really know what I wanted to do. To be honest, I just thought I'd get married and have children. So my role at Williams was almost by fluke that I started. Other people pushed me into these roles and I agreed to take them on because I'm quite compliant and I thought if they think I can do them then I will give it a whirl. I've always said that if I can't do them and if I'm not doing my job and I'm not doing a good job for Williams, then I'll gracefully exit and bow out. But really I feel like I've just been swept along by a current and I just get along with what I'm here to do.


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