We sat down with Williams F1 Team Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams on the morning of the 2013 F1 USGP to discuss her new role with the team, social media in Formula 1, and women in motorsport. (Photo credit: Williams F1 Team)
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In the wee hours of the morning (in Austin, at least), Williams F1 Team revealed their car for the 2012 Formula One season: the Williams Renault FW34. Check it out:
// The Car
The 2012 F1 season marks the team's 35th year competing in the sport, but it's far from "business as usual." Williams has rejoined forces with Renault for the first time since 1997 and is hoping to add to their previous partnership's 63 race wins, 4 Drivers' and 5 Constructors' titles. The Renault engine is a V8 power unit "renowned for its drivability, flexibility and durability." As a result of revised FIA technical regulations, this year's contender uses less than 5% of the parts from last year's FW33 and features the dropped nose at the front of the car.
A new Technical Director, Mike Coughlan, is behind the design and development direction of the FW34 and is excited to race:
“We are really looking forward to this season and from a personal perspective I can't wait to get the FW34 on to the race track. The factory has worked extremely hard over the winter to ensure that the car met its design, build and rig test targets and we start testing with the car prepared to a high standard. We’ve worked in close co-operation with all of our partners to achieve that, including Renault Sport F1. In the run-up to Australia, we will be working hard with our exciting new driver line-up to ensure that we maximise and unlock the full potential of the FW34. It is imperative that we demonstrate a continuous improvement in our performance and deliver results throughout the season.”
// The Drivers
Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas return to the line up, as Driver and Official Reserve Driver, respectively, and they are joined by Driver Bruno Senna after a consideredable winter evaluation process. All three competitors are excited about the FW34, team synergy and opportunities for the 2012 season. Maldonado is excited for his home country of Venezuela and hopes to give them good results as a thank you for their continued support. Vottas is looking forward to driving one practice session at 15 races in order to give him a better understanding of the car outside of the factory. And Senna added:
“I’m very excited to be back in action with the Williams F1 Team in Jerez. This is my ever first pre-season testing programme since I started in Formula One two years ago. I’m really motivated and looking forward to working hard and with everyone in the team. I hope we have a successful month testing and developing the car so we arrive in Melbourne as well prepared as possible.”
Williams F1 Team will join their competitors during winter testing in Jerez, Spain this week. Maldonado will drive Tuesday and Wednesday and Senna will be behind the wheel Thursday and Friday.
// The Partners
In addition to new car, new engine, new driver and new technical direction, Williams is also excited to expand their partnerships with some names even Americans will recognize, including Gillette and Head & Shoulders. Will we will see any commercials of Bruno stepping out of the shower and shaking a full head of hair? I can picture it now...
Hitting even closer to home, Williams continues to develop their partnership with native Texan Michael Johnson. Johnson is a retired American sprinter who still holds Olympic records in sprinting in addition to four Olympic gold metals and eight world championship gold medals. Last month, Williams F1 Team announced their partnership with Johnson's company, Michael Johnson Performance, which focuses on training top athletes in all sports. His performance center is located about 250 miles north of Circuit of The Americas (outside Dallas, Texas) but he has been spending time with the Williams team gearing up for a promising 2012 season.
When Matt Jones, Head of Williams F1 Team's Marketing Services, visited Austin last month, it was evident that Williams is aligning a winning attitude with a dedication to excellence. You can sense Sir Frank Williams' excitement from today's launch:
“One could say that looking at the Williams F1 Team today we are off to a truly fresh start. We have a new car, new driver line up, new engine and new senior personnel. We also have a number of new partners who have joined the team in the past few months. I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome them formally and sincerely wish that they have an enjoyable and, most importantly, a valuable experience with us. The team has had a good winter at the factory and we feel ready and strong for the fight.”
But that's not it. Williams just activated a new application on Facebook that allows YOU to discover in-depth info on the FW34, technical videos, un-released stats and facts, driver interviews and more. Via this app, they'll reveal exclusive content and give you a chance to win a personalized signed image and framed print from Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna:
- Feb. 7 - Tech changes
- Feb. 10 - Engine & exhaust
- Feb. 14 - Chassis & aerodynamic parts
- Feb. 18 - Tires/tyres
- Feb. 23 - Transmission & suspension
- Feb. 27 - Cockpit & drivers
- Mar. 1 - DRS & KERS
- Mar. 5 - Pitstops
- Mar. 9 - Final Reveal
Kudos to Williams for creatively keeping fans engaged; it will have us coming back for more. Go check it out on their Williams F1 Team Facebook page.
Last Thursday, the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin welcomed Matt Jones, Head of Marketing Services for the Williams Formula One team. The presentation was part of the “EU-US Distinguished Business and Politics Lecture Series” at UT Austin. This series presents lectures relevant to business and political relationships between the United States and the European Union and aims to bring attention to our shared economic interests. The goal is to encourage discussion between the UT population, local business communities and the broader public.
Matt’s professional experience includes his six years in the British Army’s Royal Anglian Regiment, three years as a Sponsorship Manager in the Formula Three series, Account Manager at Arrows Grand Prix from 2000 to 2002 and Sponsorship Manager at Jordan Grand Prix (now Force India) from 2003 to 2005. Although not a lifetime motorsports fan, over the past decade he has acclimated to the non-stop travelling lifestyle and now embraces F1’s fast-paced and challenging business culture.
Matt’s lecture was comprehensive, informative and engaging; I always enjoy hearing the collective gasp in the audience when they learn about F1’s 1.88 billion annual viewers or how it is broadcast in 187 countries. After introducing Formula 1 as a sport to a full lecture hall, he switched gears to talk about the Williams F1 team and how marketing is a vital role in this sport.
I admit, I knew very little about Williams F1 before Matt’s presentation: I knew that it was founded by Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head, but didn’t realize the team has “only” been around since 1977 or that Williams has won 16 FIA Formula One World Championships to date. At their 20 acre headquarters in Grove, Oxfordshire (southeastern England), they employ about 500 staff, with a majority of the workforce comprised of engineers. Aside from operations, marketing, reception, design and electronics offices, the site also includes two wind tunnels, a race bay, museum, conference center, stores, research & development and machine shop, to name a few. As the image of a corporate powerhouse comes into focus, you realize they do much more than build cars and train drivers.
The presentation’s title, “Glamour and Grit: The Marketing of a Formula One Race Team,” properly captured Matt’s focus. An F1 team’s marketing group does not simply decide advertisements; they must simultaneously spin many plates. For Williams F1, Marketing Services manages partner and sponsorship accounts, event and paddock hospitality, the Williams F1 Conference Centre and brand and licensing. All strategy and execution of team sponsorships and partnering must pass a rigorous review to be cleared by Marketing Services. This process ensures continuity, aligns corporate objectives and values and matches Williams F1’s values to each partner’s commercial objectives.
Matt spoke in detail about current and past Williams F1 partners, including relationships with the Dutch staffing company Randstad, RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland), Budweiser and the insurance company Allianz. It was interesting to learn how varying sectors align their needs and values with the F1 world and what they gain from it as the result of an active partnership. Matt echoed the shared sentiment that all F1 teams realize the importance of an active US market to be a truly global sport.
The Williams Formula One team is the only company that is wholly independent and traded publicly on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (since March 2011). Williams F1 describes this independence to its advantage:
Williams F1 commercial partnerships must work harder to drive value back into its partners’ companies…it has no publicly funded automotive giant to bail it out should things go wrong. It exists solely to go racing. It is driven by a hunger to win. It is – unusually on the modern Formula 1 grid – purely about racing.
This independence and desire to win transcends to admirable team values: integrity, entrepreneurship, precision and accessibility. As you learn about Sir Frank Williams and the history of the Williams F1 team you begin to draw parallels between his character, work ethic and winning attitude. Williams F1’s partnership announcement with Michael Johnson Performance is the most recent example of aligning a winning attitude with a dedication to excellence. Matt also introduced us to the Williams Spark Program, which exemplifies how Williams F1 embraces energy efficiency, education and road safety. The Williams F1 website is quite comprehensive and serves as an ongoing, accessible resource.
There was an active Q&A session and reception after Matt’s presentation. Based on the level of feedback from the audience, it was evident that Matt sparked an interest within F1 amateurs and led long-time F1 fans to a better understanding of how teams continue to evolve in today’s marketplace. Matt’s lecture at UT Austin’s EU-US Speaker Series proved to be a great opportunity to engage with varying communities as he offered valuable insight into how Austin’s November Formula 1 race has the potential to elevate Austin throughout the global business community.