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Breakfast with Frost
On Sunday, 20 July 2003, Breakfast with Frost featured an interview with Sir Frank Williams

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

Sir Frank Williams
Mr Ecclestone is clearly up to something

PETER SISSONS: Now, the international formula one bandwagon is an exotic affair with races at tracks around the globe, from Rio to Tokyo, to Monaco. Well this weekend it's the one British contest with the world's top drivers all competing this afternoon at Silverstone. It's effectively the home circuit of one of the most successful formula one teams run by Sir Frank Williams who joins us from the company's headquarters in Didcot. Good morning Sir Frank.

FRANK WILLIAMS: Good morning Peter.

PETER SISSONS: It's a big day in prospect for you and your star driver, Ralf Schumacher, but only fourth on the grid.

FRANK WILLIAMS: Well that's a disappointing situation from where we've been recently. We've had a good run of races, today's going to be very hard work for Ralf and for his very energetic team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya who was on the fourth row of the grid.

PETER SISSONS: And it's your aim to win the double, the driver's championship and the constructor's championship. What's put you in reach of both?

FRANK WILLIAMS: Well the last four races we have scored a lot of points, with three wins in four races, and one or two finishes. That's a lot of points out of a possible number of 72, so it's kind of catapulted back, or out of the doldrums, and into contention. But that said, Ferrari who are the main contenders for the championship are extremely skilful at making their cars very fast and very often.

PETER SISSONS: But is Ralf Schumacher one day going to be as great a driver as his brother Michael?

FRANK WILLIAMS: That's a tall task because Michael's already won five championships and Ralf's already 32. But he can do it, it depends above all about how good his equipment is and that's our responsibility. PETER SISSONS: We keep hearing that Silverstone is under threat as a grand prix venue, is it?

FRANK WILLIAMS: It would appear to be so because Mr Ecclestone, who promotes all the grand prix races, thinks the race either should not happen at all or be held somewhere else, but there is nowhere else in the UK that is all suitable. From a safety point of view, Silverstone is a very fine facility. I don't really know what Bernie's motives are, other than that, but clearly he's so up to something and we'll have to wait and hold our breath.

PETER SISSONS: Well you're teamed up with Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart to campaign for Silverstone. What are you saying to Bernie Ecclestone? He seems to be able to do what he likes.

FRANK WILLIAMS: Well he does have a great deal of power and he owns a lot of contracts, including one with the British grand prix organisers for many years to come. But I think may be a possibility he wants to also gain control of the circuit for himself. I repeat he's extraordinarily astute, his motives are always unknown until he springs his surprise.

PETER SISSONS: Is it right for one man to have so much power over such a popular sport?

FRANK WILLIAMS: Well it's how it is and I can't change that. Contracts are in place, and to be very fair to Bernie he's been a great visionary over the last 30 years and taken formula one from a weekend activity into a global sport which has a massive TV audience. ...

PETER SISSONS: Well the emerging market -

FRANK WILLIAMS: ... this emerging market, he's now into China, into Bahrain, talking to Turkey and Russia, etcetera, so we may well be true globetrotters, whether we like it or not.

PETER SISSONS: What's driving that? Is it that there's now a ban - or shortly will be a total ban - on tobacco advertising in Europe, so you can use the tobacco sponsors if you go elsewhere?

FRANK WILLIAMS: I'm not sure that's the case, because I think the tobacco wealth, I think the companies who make cigarettes, their wealth is beginning to wane, little by little, because of the endless lawsuits against those companies. I think Bernie really wants to make even more money from a new round of negotiations with fresh, very much government-funded promoters and I think that's where he sees the next major swathe or incoming funds are going to come from.

PETER SISSONS: Your team Williams, of course, is tobacco free. Why can't everyone do that?

FRANK WILLIAMS: Well it's a question of setting a course and sticking to it. We were kind of, in a way, persuaded to leave tobacco by our engine partner, BMW, and I can truthfully say that since we left tobacco that we haven't looked back. Many, many doors that had been closed to us were opened invitingly, if you like, and we have a very strong portfolio of commercial partners.

PETER SISSONS: And the rule changes to formula one, Sir Frank, have they permanently broken the grip of Ferrari?

FRANK WILLIAMS: I'm not sure, the only people who are going to do that are the teams themselves by beating them on the track. The rules are the same for everybody, they're administered very fairly, they're very clear to understand. You need - well there's a considerable amount of intellectual brain power in what they're trying to design better cars than Ferrari and then the trick is to operate them better - a tall order but it is possible and we're trying to do that.


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