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Q & A with Frank Williams

Q. What is the situation with Jenson?

Frank Williams: Williams has a fully binding straightforward contract with no let-out, it is very straightforward, clear to understand. There needs to be a clearer understanding of the word commitment. Once you give your word you should keep your word. I think he could be better advised. He is still very young. I recognise that where he presently is the team is doing well to very well but next season is all change for everyone with the new engines, the order will almost certainly shuffle. We are a strong team with a strong past, a weak present and, certainly to my mind, a strong commitment to the future. We are very well resourced, as well as any team in the paddock and I do not over exaggerate, we will be back. Jenson is part of our equipment to help us come back. We are looking forward to a British team with a British driver, it will be nice to see that again. We brought him in in 2000 and we look forward to seeing him again because we have a proper and correct legal right to expect him to be here.

Q. Jenson himself says that he wants to stay at BAR and will go as far as necessary to extricate himself from his arrangement with Williams. How do you respond?

FW: We require him to be here because we require him, he is part of our plan and clearly many of our sponsorships are dedicated on his presence, we have promised. If I say to Jenson 'yeah, okay, no problem, off you go' then over the next five years it would start a way of thinking with the drivers and teams with their sponsor contracts of 'I have changed my mind, I am sorry, I won't bother now, I am not coming.' You can't have that. You have to have law and order everywhere, especially in Formula One.

Q. Were you surprised when Jenson met you?

FW: We haven't met yet. I have asked to meet and he has agreed, I am waiting for a callback with the time and a place. He spoke to me once on the telephone and I wasn't surprised because I had read about it in the press.

Q. He must have changed in your estimation though?

FW: No comment. He is still a very young man.

Q. Some people would say this is just a force to up the rate of how much Jenson and BAR have to pay to get out of his contract. There is 20 million has been suggested, is that...

FW: Jenson is emphatically, in capital letters, NOT FOR SALE. We are a serious racing team, we need him.

Q. But if you have a driver who doesn't want to drive for you that is a big issue, isn't it?

FW: There are probably employees I have at Williams that I don't want to keep at Williams but the law prevents me.

Q. The deal with Jenson, is he on a financial retainer?

FW: There is a very explicit fee for his services which will begin the year he starts next year. We were paying options in 01, 02, 03, 04 but they expired and we started again.

Q. On a zero cash basis?

FW: (Nods)

Q. Is it a single-year deal?

FW: It is multi-year, it goes well beyond. I won't discuss all the details of his contract.

Q. Is it a concern that he doesn't want to come here?

FW: Sure, it is a concern because he is part of our plans and our plans are well exposed to our commercial partners and we need to keep our word. It is a chain reaction.

Q. So, even though there is concern that he doesn't want to drive, you will accept him here under those circumstances?

FW: We have to change his mind. He was very keen seven months ago to come here and now it is different. I recognise that we have not covered ourselves in glory but we will be back, we always come back.

Q. He has mentioned a lack of a works engine deal being a problem. What are you going to do about that?

FW: He knows the future better than me. Wait and see what happens.

Q. He said he would go to court to challenge you. Are you ready to defend that?

FW: He has every right to do that and yes we will defend our interests.

Q. It is a mess though?

FW: It is, regrettably, yes. Formula One doesn't need this.

Q. Is Jenson that good?

FW: He must be to have all the fuss. We are going to fight for him. Until someone has done a season or two in a Grand Prix car you don't really know.

Q. What do you say about the Davidson offer?

FW: I read it in the papers and I thought that was just a message but it is not our priority at all. A little fishing.

Q. Jenson mentioned he didn't believe you would want a driver who didn't want to drive for the team?

FW: That is what he is hoping.

Q. When does he start testing?

FW: When his contract expires with BAR. Either end of October or January 1.

Q. He said this isn't a binding contract. What would lead him to think that?

FW: I don't know. That is why lawyers make a lot of money!

Q. Is this about a bigger principal in Formula One?

FW: We have to have a bit of law and order and an accepted way of doing things.

Q. You have described Webber and Button as a dream team and it is something you have been presumably working on for a number of years.

FW: Well, you can't always control every year the drivers you want in your team because in interim periods they may sign up for longer periods and so are not available when you next have a vacancy. It has taken a little while for Jenson to become available.

Q. How highly do you rate Jenson?

FW: Taking Michael out of the equation, of the younger drivers he is one of the top three in my opinion.

Q. So, no amount of money would persuade you to change your mind?

FW: No.

Q. The engine seems to be important to Jenson. Can you tell us if you have, at this moment, a definite decision?

FW: We will be signing one contract in the next fortnight at the very most. On the engine business, the reason I made the point earlier about it all starting over again is that his present engine is a very good engine, it has taken years to get there and there is no automatic flow-over into next year.

Q. Can you confirm the BMW link is over?

FW: We are not even certain of that, but they want us to stay for another year, they have asked us to stay for one more year.

Q. Why is this situation any different to the one with Alesi, when you had him under contract and Ferrari came.

FW: I think Jenson is not volatile. Jean was difficult to handle, that is what made him brilliant.

Q. Wasn't Jean annoyed that you had signed Nigel as well?

FW: I don't think so, he was still in his first year when we did that. At the time we signed with Jean we had no certainty he was coming.

Q. Is a Cosworth engine an option for next year?

FW: No comment.

Q. Is it fair to say Jenson will be replacing Nick Heidfeld next season?

FW: No comment.

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