INTERVIEW: Claire Williams on turning around the family business

Image by Glenn Dunbar/LAT

INTERVIEW: Claire Williams on turning around the family business

Insights & Analysis

INTERVIEW: Claire Williams on turning around the family business


May 13, 2012: Pastor Maldonado is hoisted aloft by Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen on the Barcelona podium. After the Venezuelan national anthem, the British one rang out to mark the first Williams victory in over seven years.

As shocks go, it was a big one, and nobody expected it to mark the start of a title challenge. But perhaps it would prove to be one of the first shoots of recovery to get the team that has won seven drivers’ and nine constructors’ championships fighting at the front once again.

Nearly seven years on, there hasn’t been another win. The following year proved disastrous, but there was a big turnaround in 2014 and 2015. Yet consecutive third-placed finishes in the constructors’ didn’t provide the springboard Williams hoped, as fifth the next two years turned into 10th last season.

Claire Williams’ official title is deputy team principal, but she carries out so many of the duties of team principal. And over the past 12 months she’s been trying to instigate another turnaround in fortunes similar to the one seen five years ago.

“I think at the moment as we’re in a relatively stable period of regulations it takes a lot longer,” Williams tells RACER. “Our plan at the moment is very different to that which we undertook in 2013 which effected changes in 2014. Not least the engine decision that we made in 2013 certainly helped with our performance, and based on where the other manufacturers were at the time. So this is a very different transformation that we’re undergoing at the moment in order to set us on the right road to achieve what we need to achieve in the sport.

“But there are certainly lessons. I think probably the lesson that I’ve learned is that actually it’s not as easy as just changing your engine, your drivers and bringing in a title partner. There’s a lot more work that needs to be done in order to make sure that an F1 team is set up in a way that it needs to in order to operate as efficiently and effectively as it needs to.”

A long view up the grid has been familiar for Williams drivers in recent years. (Image by Andy Hone/LAT)

With that lesson in mind, Williams says it isn’t just material items that have needed attention as part of the attempts to bounce back from last year’s struggles, with the whole culture within the team being reviewed in order to try and strengthen overall.

“I think it’s a combination of everything. I think when you are where we found ourselves last year, you have to look at every element of your business and that’s exactly what we’ve done. I think that just trying to change one thing or doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome isn’t going to steer you in the direction in which you need to be going, so we have literally looked at everything.

“We have obviously changed our drivers, we’ve changed certain structures within the organization, we’ve addressed all the areas around performance that we need to, and I think that probably the one thing that we have kept stable is the engine this year. So it’s making sure that all parts of the jigsaw puzzle are fitting correctly and going from there.”