Today's press conference with Claire Williams, Zak Brown and Guenther Steiner.
Guenther, we'll start with you: that looked like an encouraging first session, with Romain up in sixth place. Does that help you move ahead from the disappointment of Australia and start to put it behind you?
Guenther Steiner: Yeah, absolutely, it will help. It keeps the morale up with the guys, from the disappointment of Australia. But then again, FP1 doesn't mean a lot. But it's better to be there than to be last. It helps the guys to keep going and I hope we keep going in FP2, FP3 and Qualifying. And then hopefully in the race we have a flawless race.
And how did you pick up the guys after Australia?
GS: I think we just regrouped and said 'these things can happen; they shouldn't happen, we all know that'. You don't have to beat anybody up; they all feel bad about it. Nobody does this intentionally. It was a series of things that went wrong and it just happened in one race and when we were in a good position. But you always have to take out the positives. We learn, it seems like we have a good car, we just have to keep pushing and we will be fine the rest of the year.
Thank you. Claire, Melbourne was quite a difficult weekend for Williams, certainly in the race. Was that race a fair reflection of where the team stands in the pecking order at the moment?
Claire Williams: Yeah, you're right - it wasn't our finest hour in Melbourne. I think we probably came into the season following testing knowing that we wanted to be. I think we would have hoped that we made some greater inroads into the performance delta to the frontrunners, however that didn't transpire in Melbourne. But I'm not necessarily convinced that Melbourne was particularly representative, I hope it wasn't. We know that there are three key areas of weakness that we need to focus on, which we're doing now. We certainly believe we have more performance to extract from the car and that's what the team are working on at the moment.
How do you move forward from here to improve the car in those areas?
CW: As I said, we know the three key areas of weakness and we just need to focus on those. The team needs to a good job trackside to make sure that our race ops are where they need to be. The drivers need to ensure that they're doing what they needs to do from the start of the weekend. And then we need to make sure that we're improving the performance of the car race to race. Probably it's the car that's our greatest weakness at the moment, so everybody at Grove is galvanised to make sure that we bring the upgrades that we need to bring and that we keep working on it. It's just about keeping our heads down and not getting too stressed out but the first result in Melbourne. I think that's really important - this is a long season and we need to look forward rather than back.
Thank you. Zak, coming to you, it's a home race of sorts for McLaren and you had a strong result on the first race weekend, but was the pace where you expected it to be at the start of the season?
Zak Brown: Our pace was there or thereabouts. It was a good race for us. We wanted to get both cars home, reliably and in the points. It was a good weekend. The drivers did an exceptional job, the pit stops were good, we're in the rebuilding process, it's a long season, but that was a long season for us.
Yesterday, Fernando Alonso said that the next two months are crucial for McLaren. Is that a sentiment that you share?
ZB: I think the next two months are crucial for every Formula 1 team, with the pace of development. No one is sitting still. This race is important, the following race is important, every race is important, but we need to build on Australia, find some more speed, make sure we continue with the reliable and good team work, and I think we'll have a good season.
Questions From The Floor
Q: (Kate Walker- New York Times) This week we saw the results of the gender pay gap figures published - I know Guenther your team was exempt - but what sort of efforts are you guys making to rectify any imbalances in pay in your workforce and to what extent are the existing imbalances down to people of different gender being in different roles, rather than any deliberate effort to underpay women?
CW: I can get on my soapbox now! Gender equality at Williams, and I'm talking on behalf of our team, is obviously an issue that we have been looking at and addressing for a number of years now. It's hugely important as part of a wider societal conversation that we're having and it's really important that we tackle and we address these issues. I do think the report that came out this week is misleading. I think the criteria by which we have to report has been particularly misleading. You look at the tables of teams that have had to report and Williams is pretty far down the bottom, but they are looking at the mean and the median. And actually the most important thing when you're looking at gender pay is that women are paid the same amount as their male counterparts for doing the same role. That's the most important thing. At Williams we tackled that issue a while ago, probably 12-18 months ago. We know, and I can sit here with total transparency, saying all women at Williams are paid for doing the identical roles that men are paid. I think that's the most important issue that we have to address. I think that these reports that have come out this week can be extremely misleading, because they are comparing situations where actually there are far fewer women in our roles in our teams, because this is a very male-dominated sport and always has been. However, we've done a huge amount of work to tackle that over the past 12 months and we continue to do so. I think at Williams we probably do more work than most of the teams in the paddock, and I'm really proud to say that, either through the initiatives we've set up over the past two years to address the situation, or through the work we do with external parties such as F1 in Schools and Dare to be Different. And we will keep plugging this conversation and keep doing this work to ensure that we have more females coming into our team and into motorsport as a whole. It's so important when we're looking at a shortage of engineers coming up. We have to be talking to all students, male and female, in secondary and tertiary education if we're to make sure that at the end of the day this sport survives. But it is also really important to say that we recruit on merit. Sport has to be done on a meritocracy, it's not just a box-ticking exercise for us to make surer that we have more women in. It's to make sure that we have quality people coming into our racing teams to work.
ZB: I echo Claire's comments, I think she laid that out very well. What I would say is that it is a very important issue for McLaren. It's something that we speak about frequently. It's something that we are doing something about, so we recognise its importance and there is definitely room for improvement.
GS: After Claire, what she said, I don't know what to say! It was so good. Even if we are exempt, we are equal, it's the job position, we don't look at gender. It's very transparent, we are very new, so we never had any history there. When we started it needed to be equal anyway. That is the position and that is the pay. It doesn't matter whoever it is that is what gets paid. So we are very fair on that one. Even if we don't have to report, we have no issues with that and we just keep it fair.
Q: (Dan Knutson - Auto Action and Speed Sport) Liberty presented its broad outline for the future. It's going to require co-operation from the teams. You've all observed Formula 1 for a long time and you know that teams rarely agree unanimously on everything. What's different now than it has been in the past 30 or 40 years?
ZB: I can't really speak to the last 30 or 40 years because I haven't been around that long… but I have watched it. Yeah, I look like it! Thanks! I think we all recognise that the sport starts with the fan and that's what Liberty are focused on - putting on a better for the fan. And if the fan wins, we all win. The sponsors win, the m4edia wins, television ratings win. I think we all recognise that the sport is not where it needs to be today so it's in our collective interest to improve the show. That means we're all going to have make varying degrees of compromises but I think we'll ultimate get there at the end and I'm excited about the future of Formula 1.
CW: I was extremely positive about today's meeting, I have to say. I think we've all hoped for change under our new management and I think today they presented change. I think for a team like ours, based on what they presented, it was an extremely good day for us. I came back thinking let's crack open some champagne, because from our perspective if we can get these new regulations through, and if Liberty/FOM do everything they say they are going to do, that they presented this morning, then from our perspective I know that Williams' future is safe. That's not to say that we were on the brink, or anywhere close, but with today's sport and the way it is structured and with the financial disparity between teams then the likelihood of Williams' survival into the medium and long-term was looking pretty bleak. Everything they presented from revenue redistribution to cost caps is absolutely everything that we want to see from 2021 and beyond, so I'm personally delighted with the proposals that they laid down. I know that in the past you can have these conversations and they come out and not necessarily anything is ever done about it, but I'm not sure these discussions are negotiable. That's not the message I got anyway.
GS: I think I echo what Claire and Zak said. We are looking all positive after our meeting. But to answer Dan's question, there's a different owner of the sport in place so they will do things differently. We knew what was before, there was always the same tactics. With the new owner that is what you have got the chance to make it happen different this time. That's my opinion about it, to answer Dan's question straight. I think it was good today. The presentation went well. For sure, everybody goes away and comes back with questions but I think as Claire and Zak said we are at the point where we need to change something to attract people, to attract new fans to do what we need to do to make the sport the leading sport in the world.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire - Associated Press) Just to follow up on that, is there anything - for all three of you - that you had any reservations about regarding the proposals? Any particular point?
ZB: I think we're going to avoid getting into specifics of what was discussed this morning. That was what was agreed amongst the teams, Chase and Ross. But, as Claire and Guenther have said, I would say overall the impression is very positive and I think the direction they're taking is the right direction. There's obviously a lot of details, questions - but we'll do that behind closed doors.
Guenther, anything to add?
GS: No. Nice try to get more information. But no, nothing more to add. The detailed discussions are behind closed doors, we all agreed on that one, and so we should keep it like in any other business and hopefully we bring back a better sport that is better for all of us.
Claire, you're very happy but I assume you're going the say the same?
CW: Yeah, the same. Thank you.
Check out our Friday gallery from Bahrain, here.