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Motorsport Blog
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Motorsport Blog

Claire Williams: "we’re not controlled by Mercedes in Formula 1 voting"

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Claire Williams: "we’re not controlled by Mercedes in Formula 1 voting"
Apr 11, 2016, 2:34 PM

Williams would not be dictated into voting for the aims of its Formula 1 engine supplier under any circumstances, according to the squad’s deputy...

Williams would not be dictated into voting for the aims of its Formula 1 engine supplier under any circumstances, according to the squad’s deputy team principal Claire Williams.

The Grove-based team, which announced improved financial results this morning, is part of the F1 Strategy Group that proposes rule changes that are then voted on by the F1 Commission.

The sport’s promoter, Bernie Ecclestone, said at the start of 2016 that F1’s engine manufacturers behave like a “cartel” and use their power unit partners to influence voting on F1’s future rules.

Felipe Massa

But Williams categorically denied that her team would be forced into voting in favour of the desires of Mercedes, which has supplied the British team with power units since 2014.

When asked at a media briefing attended by this website if that would ever be the case, Williams replied: “Absolutely not. If you look through any of the voting, I don’t know if they can make them public, [but] if they ever did you could see that we’re not controlled by Mercedes.

“We have a great relationship with Mercedes, and with Toto in particular, and the power unit that they provide for us is great, but that will never dictate our political position in Formula 1.

XPB.cc Lewis Hamilton Valtteri Bottas

“We are Williams, we have been in this sport of nearly four decades and we will vote based on what we believe to be right and true for the good of the sport, not because we’re asked to do so by our engine manufacturer, who we are a customer of.

“We pay for our power unit, it’s not like we get it for free and therefore we need to vote in favour of what they ask us to vote for."

F1 has learnt from qualifying controversy

Williams also believes that F1 has learnt from the recent controversies regarding qualifying, with an unpopular elimination format being approved just two weeks before the Australian Grand Prix and then being abandoned after the Bahrain race last week.

Felipe Massa

She said: “Williams is really relieved that we’re going back to the 2015 [system]. It is obviously what the fans want, I hope it’s what the media wants, [and] it’s certainly what our partners want.

“I think it will give us a period of stability during which time we can actually sit down to properly analyse what a potentially new 2017 qualifying system could look like, and I think that is what we need to do.”

The 39-year-old, who is the daughter of Williams' team founder Sir Frank Williams, does reckon that F1 needs to address its problems with falling TV viewers and spectator numbers, but she feels that it should sort out any new ideas in private before implementing them in the championship.

She said: “We have to look at a race weekend with the declining audience numbers both coming to watch us live and then also turning on their TVs. I think, as a sport, we have to look at what we are putting on the track and away from the track over a race weekend to make sure that we are attracting and retaining the audience that we have and engaging a new generation of fans to Formula 1.

XPB.cc Australian Grand Prix qualifying

“I think that we have learnt that we need to take more time to consider proposals that come to us, absolutely. You don’t want to play out scenarios like that in the public arena; they should be done behind the scenes. I do think we have learned a lesson.”

Driver line-up: “A decision we’ll take when the time is right.”

A number of F1 drivers, including both Williams’ drivers, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, are out of contract at the end of 2016 and speculation that there could be seat changes across the grid has already begun.

Felipe Massa Valtteri Bottas

But when asked by this website if her team would prioritise picking two drivers who would deliver better results over any that bring extra cash, Williams replied that getting the best result would always be the primary concern for the team, but she insisted the situation is never as clear cut as it often seems.

She said: “Getting two cars as high up the finishing order, week in week out, is always going to be the absolute priority for this team because of our independent status.

“You’re always going to want to put two guys that have the most amount of talent in your two cars that are available to you based on your financial circumstances. I don’t think it’s as black and white as being able to say one thing or another and there are going to be a lot of options for everybody at the end of this year.

Felipe Massa

“It’s going to be an interesting game of musical chairs for everybody because there are so many drivers who are out of contract. There are going to be opportunities for us as team, based on many considerations. It’s a decision we’ll take when the time is right.”

Lance Stroll "clearly has talent"

Williams has signed Canadian Formula 3 driver Lance Stroll as a development driver for 2016, and the squad again denied that it has approached the 17-year-old’s father, Lawrence Stroll, about investing in the team.

Lance Stroll Williams

“We have never talked to Lawrence about shareholding and we have a really strong shareholding structure today,” said Williams’ CEO, Mike O’Driscoll.

“I think we’ve got a really strong shareholder structure today and we haven’t had conversations with either Lawrence or anyone else about investing in the team.”

Mike O'Driscoll Williams

Williams added that the team was focused on Stroll’s development programme, which he will complete alongside his F3 commitments, and it will then evaluate his progress at the end of the season.

She said: “For us, at the moment, it’s all about doing this development programme with Lance and seeing where that ends up at the end of the year. He’s obviously got a lot to prove in F3 this year and we’re very much enjoying working with him.

“Lance is wonderful. He’s a very charming young man and he’s extremely capable. He clearly has talent, so we’re looking forward to seeing how he develops over the course of the year.”

Valtteri Bottas

What do you make of Claire Williams’ comments on F1? Have you been impressed by the team so far in 2016? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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