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Claire Williams Reflects on Her Challenging F1 Legacy

Claire Williams Reflects on Her Challenging F1 Legacy

14/04/2024

Claire Williams discusses the highs and lows of her F1 tenure, challenging the harsh critiques she’s faced.

With Claire at the helm, the English team nevertheless ended in complete sporting and financial disarray—only surviving due to a buyout by Dorilton Capital. Even today, James Vowles, the new team director, points out how outdated the Williams F1 facilities are, with anachronistic processes and obsolete machinery.

Yet, Claire Williams also reminds us that under her leadership, Williams F1 finished 3rd in the constructors’ standings in 2014 and 2015, regularly achieving podiums with Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.

It is true that the Mercedes F1 power unit made life easier for Williams F1, but it is also true that McLaren, with the same engine, did not achieve similar results.

“I secured 15 podiums when I was team director, I don’t think any team director outside of Toto and Christian, in the last 14 years, has achieved 15 podiums,” Claire Williams points out, perhaps forgetting Mattia Binotto or Maurizio Arrivabene.

“I scored a quarter of the total points in Williams’ entire history. That’s a lot of points. But people forget that because of my last three years with the team,” she adds… even though it must be noted that the scoring system introduced in 2010 greatly distorts the statistics!

It should also be noted that Claire Williams won no races as team director, whereas Williams F1 has won 114 in its history.

No hard feelings, however, for Claire: she believes James Vowles will do a very good job in this role.

“I am very pleased that someone like James is leading this team.”

“Few people have the necessary experience to lead a team, and even fewer to turn around a team that was in poor shape—if I can say that, it’s because I led it!”

“The new owners, Dorilton, made a brilliant move bringing him from Mercedes. I am very attached to Williams, to those who lead it and those who represent it, even though it is no longer ours.”

“When your father built a team into which he poured blood, sweat, and tears along with the rest of the people at Williams with him and Patrick [Head, co-founder]… it’s a tremendous legacy, one that we as a family will always be incredibly proud of.”

“That’s one of the reasons, I suppose, why Dorilton wanted to keep the Williams name. There is significant value and legacy there.”

“When your father has invested so much effort into something, you absolutely want to make sure that the person taking over is up to the task, and I think that’s the case with James.”

As the daughter of Frank and then as team director, Claire Williams grew up, thought, and worked F1 throughout her career. F1 is part of her life—and she inevitably misses it.

“45 years in Formula 1, that’s a very long time that shapes your life, defines your character and identity.”

“I have lived and breathed Williams all my life, so four years out of this sport seem surreal to me, if I’m honest, and it’s also sad.”

“I miss it. I miss Formula 1. It’s an incredible world to be part of, and it’s consuming, especially when you’re running a team.”

“It’s very hard to leave and find meaning and purpose elsewhere, but I have a young son whose early years I missed because I was busy running Williams. I can be his mother, I can be a wife. We’ve moved, I work here and there, and it’s a very beautiful way to live.”

Claire Williams has since taken a step back and was recently a consultant for the latest season of “Drive to Survive”…

“I think what was strange was being on the outside looking in.”

“I’m so used to leading a team and being judged by others while now, I find myself on the other side of the barrier having to judge others.”

Claire Williams Reflects on Her Challenging F1 Legacy

Claire Williams Reflects on Her Challenging F1 Legacy. Claire Williams Reflects on Her Challenging F1 Legacy

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