As the Williams F1 Team presented its 2008 livery today, Team Principal Frank Williams is looking ahead to the upcoming season which starts in less than 2 weeks time. It will be a very special season for the team as it celebrates its 30th birthday.
The team will mark several landmarks this season. Did you foresee such success when you first started your career? "It never crossed my mind so no, not at all. Back then, my mind concentrated on yesterday’s and today’s problems."
This year also sees you become the longest serving constructor in Formula One and celebrate 600 GP entries. What has motivated you over the past 38 years and what keeps motivating you? "It’s very easy to be hooked by Formula One. Once you’re in, you can’t get out. It’s almost an addiction, but an enjoyable one."
You had no connections to motorsport as a child. What propelled you into the sport do you think? "When I was very young, motor cars were few and far between but I always loved them. I was just thrilled by their speed and their specification, I was hooked from the first time I came across one."
Formula One has changed considerably during your tenure, what has been the most significant change, in your opinion? "Undoubtedly safety. The advances we’ve seen over the years are very much down to Max Mosley and the FIA."
Your relationship with Patrick Head is the most enduring partnership in the paddock. What do you think has been the key to its longevity? "A common sense of purpose. We also have an understanding of what each other is good at so we very rarely tread on each others’ toes."
Williams has an impressive employee retention record with a number of employees having worked for you from the start. What do you think encourages people to work at WF1 for so long? "It helps to have been around a while, obviously! We tend to attract people who enjoy what they do and people who really want to win races. Our atmosphere is certainly disciplined, but has a light touch which I think helps."
The team stands as one of just two independent teams in the pitlane. What pressures does that bring and do you see Williams staying as a force in the paddock for another ten years? "Making ends meet is the single largest problem that I face with Adam our CEO but we have a very able marketing department who always work their socks off all year round. Better results always help, but when we have had a good year we reap the rewards for the following few years. We haven’t been what I would call a force for a good few years, but I hope that we will be an honest and able competitor whilst enjoying what we do as well as being a team that helps to give the fans good value for money."
The team hasn’t won a Championship for ten seasons now but is it fair to say it seems to be turning a corner? "Ten years is a miserably long time, Patrick and I wince every time we think about it. But life’s tough, it’s never meant to be easy, you just have to get on with it and work hard to get back to the top. Whether we’ve turned a corner, we will only be able to tell once the season gets underway."
The press are speculating that Williams could be the leading team behind Ferrari and McLaren this year. Are you cautiously optimistic of improving on last year’s performance? "Personally, not in the slightest, I don’t subscribe to what the press has said. Our competitors around us, of which there are many, are just as competitive. Formula One is never easy; it’s not supposed to be easy, so to think that we’re going to sail in to third place in the first few races is pie in the sky. If we do, it’ll be a tight fit."
Nico returns for his third season this year. How important is he to the team? "He’s fundamental. We have the highest regards for him and we have great confidence that, given the right equipment, he will win races."
Kazuki has been promoted from test to race driver, how has he been doing over winter testing and what are your expectations of him in a race seat? "We knew we were taking a bit of a gamble when we signed him, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by his testing pace. It’s really only a question I’ll be able to answer properly after the first few races of the season."
There’s a new face in team this year in the form of Nico Hulkenberg. What prompted you to take him on as a test driver? "We like his background. The fact he’s a Willi Weber driver gives us confidence in our choice. He hasn’t done much running to date, but he does not appear to be a waste of time."
And lastly, what are your predictions for the season ahead? "I think the first four places are most likely to be occupied by the same people as last year, sadly. But I do think it will be a brilliant racing season."
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