F1’s forgotten team boss? Ex-boss makes Wolff and Horner comparison in fresh claim

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner

Toto Wolff and Christian Horner

Claire Williams believes the closing stages of her Williams tenure makes people “forget” that she is the most successful Formula 1 team boss behind Toto Wolff and Christian Horner in recent times.

Claire, daughter of the late great team co-founder Sir Frank Williams, began working with the Grove outfit in 2002 and ultimately rose through the ranks to become de facto leader as deputy team principal from 2013.

Claire Williams feels people ‘forget’ her F1 success

The following year marked the start of F1’s era of V6 turbo hybrid engines, and as a Mercedes power unit customer, the most successful period that the Williams team had experienced since the early 2000s.

Williams recorded back-to-back P3 finishes in the 2014 and 2015 Constructors’ standings with Claire’s “favourite” driver pairing, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas at the wheel, but a lack of investment triggered a slow decline until the Williams family sold the team to Dorilton Capital in 2020, at which point they had hit rock bottom.

However, Claire believes that period of disappointment clouded the judgement of many regarding her time leading the family team, as she pointed to Wolff, who led Mercedes to a streak of eight consecutive Constructors’ titles from 2014-21, as well as Horner, team boss of the now dominant Red Bull outfit, as the only team bosses to have exceeded her accomplishments in recent times.

“I got 15 podiums during my time, I don’t think any team principal outside of Toto and Christian, in the last 14 years, have had 15 podiums,” she told BlackBook Motorsport.

“I’ve scored a quarter of Williams’ total points tally in the team’s entire history. That’s a lot of points. But people forget that because of the last three years of my time.”

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While Claire admits she remains very “territorial” over who is running the Williams team now, she is full of praise for the decision to bring in James Vowles, who left his Mercedes chief strategist role to become Williams team principal ahead of the 2023 campaign.

“I’m really pleased that someone like James is running that team,” she confirmed. “Not many people have the experience that you need to run a team, let alone bring a team up that was in pretty bad shape – if I can say that because I was running it!

“The new owners, Dorilton, staged a brilliant coup when they managed to bring him across from Mercedes. I’m very territorial over Williams and who’s running it and who’s representing it, even though it’s not ours anymore.

“When your father built a team that he put blood, sweat, and tears into with the rest of the people that used to work at Williams with him and Patrick [Head, co-founder] … that’s an enormous legacy, one that, as a family, we will always remain incredibly proud of.

“That’s one of the reasons, I suppose, that Dorilton wanted to keep the name Williams. There’s a huge amount of value and legacy within that.

“Once your dad has put that amount of work into something, you absolutely want to ensure that the person that’s taken over is up to the job, and I think James is.”

But, while Claire sees Williams in very good hands under Vowles’ leadership, she admits that to this day she misses being a part of Formula 1, even if no longer being so has allowed her to make up for time lost with her family.

“45 years in Formula 1 is a really long time and it shapes your life, defines your character and who you are,” the now 47-year-old Claire admitted.

“I lived and breathed Williams my whole existence, so four years out of the sport still feels quite surreal, if I’m honest, and sad.

“I miss it. I miss Formula 1. It’s an incredible world to be a part of, and it is all-consuming, particularly when you run a team.

“It is very difficult to leave and find meaning and purpose elsewhere, but I have a young son whose formative years I missed out on because I was busy running Williams. I get to be his mum, I get to be a wife. We’ve done a house move, I do some work here and there – and that’s a very nice way to live.”

That work has included appearances on the latest series of Netflix’s hit Formula 1 docuseries Drive to Survive, focusing on the 2023 campaign, offering her input on key season storylines.

“I think what was weird was being outside of it and looking in,” she claimed.

“I’m so used to running a team and having everyone else judge me, and then I’m on the other side of the fence looking in and having to judge other people.”

Williams, now with Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant at the wheel, are still searching for their first point in F1 2024 after three rounds.

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