Ahead of the launch of its 2019 livery, which will feature a new title sponsor, Claire Williams insists her team is down but definitely not out.
While the superior budgets of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, meant that the best Williams could hope for was the annoying ‘best of the rest’ epithet, or “Formula 1.5” champions as Gene Haas described it.
Though, in 2016 and 2017, the Grove outfit was beaten to fourth by relative upstarts Force India, in the previous two seasons the team had finished third, ahead of Ferrari in 2014 and Red Bull in 2015.
Therefore, while it was widely anticipated that the multi champions would have a fight on its hands in 2018, nobody expected the season to be the total disaster that it was.
According to who you listen to, the team knew within the first hour of pre-season testing just how bad things were.
By the time Abu Dhabi was over and the Grove outfit could head home to lick its wounds and wonder where it had all gone wrong, it was last in the standings having scored just four points in 21 races.
Along with a number of sponsors – including Martini who was never likely to renew – the team had lost chief designer Ed Wood, head of aerodynamics Dirk De Beer and at season-end head of performance engineering Rob Smedley, not to mention its pride and self-belief.
However, ahead of Monday’s livery reveal, which will include details of a new title sponsor, Claire Williams has come out fighting.
“This is our family’s team, so there is a lot riding on that,” she tells Racer. “One of the reasons I took this job was to protect not just my dad’s but my mum’s legacy in this sport. It’s a legacy that we’re enormously proud of. So there’s that pressure.
“And I care very deeply about the reputation of this team,” she continues, “I care very deeply about the people that work for us and I want to make sure that they have a team that they can be proud of and that this team survives for many, many, many years to come in our sport.
“So I have a huge personal investment, but I wouldn’t be doing anything else. I love what I do, I’m very lucky to do what I do, and I actually find the challenge probably more invigorating than if we were just happily cruising around in P4 and grabbing the occasional podium.
“For me, I very much actually almost liken my journey to that when Frank started the team,” she says. “We’re on our uppers from a performance perspective and you have to fight hard if you’re going to be successful in any sport. Because success is so incredibly rewarding, that success isn’t easy to come by. Just ask Toto, it takes an enormous amount of hard work… luck doesn’t necessarily come into it.
“I’m prepared for that and I’ve got my sleeves rolled up and I’m going to fight with every inch of my being in order to achieve what I want Williams to achieve,” she declares, “and I won’t give up until I do. I’ll go down fighting if I have to, but I will continue to fight for this team because I believe in it. I believe it has a place in this sport, I believe it still has a very great relevance and it shouldn’t be where it is at the moment.”
Fighting talk… let’s hope the FW42 is up for the battle that lies ahead.