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Styrian GP: Friday Press Conference: Part 2

NEWS STORY
10/07/2020

Today's press conference with Otmar Szafnauer, Mario Isola and Claire Williams.

Q: A quick question from me to start. We've had calendar announcements from Formula 1 with confirmation of races at Mugello and Sochi. I'd love to get your reaction on that please?
Claire Williams: Firstly, I think Formula 1, the FIA, everybody has done an extraordinary job to bring us all back racing and to do it so safely. I imagine it's incredibly hard work trying to co-ordinate where we are going racing after these initial eight races that have been confirmed, so to hear that more races have been put on the calendar is great news. Clearly we want to go racing as much as possible in the safest possible way. Russia we know. Mugello is an unknown - I think we used to go testing there many, many moons ago. Yeah, we're looking forward it. I think it will give the engineers a challenge. But I think it's fantastic that F1 is putting all these new races on the calendar.

Mario Isola: Yeah, I fully agree with Claire. It's great to be back, it's great to have a calendar now made of 10 races. Mugello is a circuit that we know, because we raced there with other series. It's quite hard on tyres, so we need to be well prepared for this circuit. In mid-September it's also possible to have high temperatures. Last time we went there with a Formula 1 car was 2012, so a long time ago. But happy to have a second race in Italy. We are Italians so we like the idea to have a second race in Italy. I hope it will be a great race and a great celebration of this very nice circuit.

Q: First time since 2006 that we'll have two races in Italy. And Otmar, please?
Otmar Szafnauer: There isn't much else to say. I agree with Claire and Mario. It's wonderful to see two more races added and I think that's testament to the hard work that was done to make sure that we can race safely. We've shown that in the first weekend and with the second weekend coming up now and if we stick to the protocols that have been put in place then it looks like we can race safely and that will mean many more races after Russia as well.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll - motorsport.com) A question to Otmar. You have Checo under contract until 2022 and presumably Lance is on a long-term commitment as well. So, are you at this point in a position to provide a firm no towards being able to offer Sebastian Vettel a drive for 2021?
OS: Well, like I've said before, it's flattering that everyone this that a four-time world champion would come to our team, but maybe that's because the car is a bit quicker now. You're absolutely right, we have long contracts with both our drivers, so it would only be logical that we don't have space.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines/racefans.net) A driver is generally accepted as being a performance differentiator. Given that we differentiate performance via the budget cap on aero etc, how do you feel about including driver salaries within the budget cap or alternatively having a capo on a driver's salary? And do you believe that any form of cap would possibly chase away the superstars from the sport?
OS: I'm definitely in favour of including the driver salaries within the cap because it forces teams to make those decisions. Do you spend your money on a driver or do you take one that doesn't cost you so much and spend it elsewhere on performance. To answer your first questions, Dieter, I'm in favour of having the salaries within the budget cap. Your second one is a hypothetical one as to if that happens will the superstars go do something else? I believe that even having the driver salaries within the cap their salaries would still be higher than what they would get at other racing series.
CW: I would tend to agree with Otmar. As you say, Dieter, drivers are performance differentiators and in order to get a much more equitable playing field in this sport, as the financial regulations are there to do, then I think it's absolutely critical that anyone who is performance related should be part of that cost cap. I wholeheartedly agree with it. And again, as Otmar said, I think that the likelihood of drivers being discouraged from participating in our sport would probably be minimal, just simply because this is the highest echelon of motorsport and it's a destination where drivers want to be racing.

Q: On the subject of drivers, George said yesterday that his future is in your hands. What are your plans for him?
CW: I feel quite a lot of pressure, George's future being in my hands. George is on a three-year contract with the team, he's in his second year and he's done a fantastic job for Williams. Everybody knows how difficult it was for all of us last year, not least for George, and he always held his head up high and he always went out there with an incredibly positive outlook, even in moments that were difficult for him and we're incredibly appreciative of that at Williams. George is a great talent. He's clearly got huge ambitions and we want to be able to give him the machinery that he can get out there and score points with, but at the moment we've got two driver contracted to the team for 2021 and I'm reluctant to say anything else on the matter.

Q: (Luke Smith - Autosport) Claire, I just wondered if you could give an update on the team's look for a possible investor or buyer. You said in the announcement a couple of months ago there was a three to four-month window you were looking at. Are there any updates you can give at this point?
CW: Only to say that we are happy with the process and how it is going so far. We have received a number of interesting potential investors and we are talking to those at the moment and they are of a high quality, which we are delighted about and we continue to go through that process at the moment. As you said, at the start of it we anticipated that it would taker three to four months and we're still on that timeline at the moment.

Q: (Abishek Takle - Mid-day) Question to Claire and Otmar. As team principals, in terms of maintaining this biosphere, what exactly are you allowed and not allowed to do between races when it comes to travel and things like that, and activities away from the track? And for Mario, as a supplier, how difficult is it for you with people working across multiple teams to maintain the biosphere?
OS: We've been pretty strict and discipline is what you need in order to maintain the biosphere. For example, we're all in the same hotel and when we get back to the hotel our team are not allowed to go out in the town fort dinner for example, we have to eat dinner together within the hotel. We travel in little groups as well and those groups stay together at the track too. When we're here in the paddock we make sure we stay within our team and we don't have interaction with others. I think it's important to have that vigilance and if we do that and follow the protocol then I'm very confident that we'll all stay safe.

CW: We've followed the same protocols that Otmar has outlined. We haven't been able to all be in the same hotel as one team but the team has remained in its bubble and we have been very careful to ensure that those guidelines are being adhered to by all our team personnel. It's not easy, when everyone is away. It's hard and you want to be able to go out, but we want to be able to do the right thing by our sport. A lot of people have put a lot of hard work in behind the scenes to make sure that is safe to go racing again and we don't want to do anything to jeopardise that. So we have stayed within our bubble away from the race track, not going out, and obviously we have followed all the guidelines that have been put in place while we're here. I think that Formula 1 has done a fantastic job in the first week that we have been away. I know that there have been north of 4,000 tests that have taken place and not one has returned back as a positive. That is testimony to all the hard work that everybody is putting in in order to make sure that we respect the protocols that have been put in place.

MI: We instituted similar protocols to the teams, the difference is that we have people everywhere across the teams. That is why we... at the beginning we decided to keep a Pirelli bubble rather than allocating engineers inside a team bubble and thanks to the co-operation of the teams we now have an area that is dedicated to Pirelli. It is not easy to work like that because obviously without any access to the garage our engineers have no possibility to check the tyres and to take data and measurements but it is necessary so we are happy to continue with this approach for as long as it is necessary to do that. We have to give a clear indication to our personnel but also to rely on individual responsibility because obviously that is the main point, strict protocols and procedures but explaining how important it is to follow these procedures, not just telling them you have to stay in your room at the hotel and that's all, but to make them aware of the risks and consequences if they behave in not the way we want.

Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Claire, if I can just follow up Luke's earlier question. You mentioned you were talking to a number of potential investors. When you initially announced this, you talked about anything was on the table including the potential sale of the team. I wondered if any of the parameters have changed, whether you're now talking more about an investment than an outright sale?
CW: No, the parameters haven't changed, Alan, and obviously, as everybody knows, Williams is a listed company, we have to operate as per the takeover code and panel and their guidelines, that they dictate and that's why the strategic review process is as it is. We are looking for either investment into the team, the disbursement of a minority or a majority shareholder or core sales. We're still thinking along any of those lines. The options are available to us and it will be the board's decision as to the best option that's put on the table.

Check out our Friday gallery from Spielberg, here.

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