The Williams team and their name will continue in Formula One, the deputy team principal, Claire Williams, has said. She has expressed optimism for the future despite the team announcing on Friday they were considering putting the operation up for sale and seeking investment because of financial pressure.
The team suffered a £13m loss last year and are facing a further shortfall because of the coronavirus crisis and Williams are now appraising potential offers to buy the team or of investment, and have already entered discussions with some interested parties.
Williams, the daughter of Sir Frank, has insisted they are financially strong enough to see out this season and believes the team would prove an attractive prospect to prospective investors. “I have every confidence that we will find the investment that we need,” she said. “We’re making this decision to source inward investment in order to help us achieve everything that we want to, to help us fulfil all the plans that we’ve been putting into place and to drive us even further forward. It’s absolutely the right day to be doing this in Williams’s history.”
Williams’ history in F1 is notable. Founded by Sir Frank and Patrick Head in 1977, they followed in the footsteps of the British garagistas of the 50s and 60s. They have remained proudly independent ever since and won nine constructors’ championships and seven drivers’ titles. Claire Williams believes it is a record that will ensure the name remains in F1.
“There’s a huge value in the Williams brand,” she said. “It is loved by sports fans both in and out of F1, and I think it stands for something. I’m sure that any investor would recognise that.” Their financial difficulties are partly attributable to recent poor showings on track, with performance-related revenues hit by finishing last in the championship for the last two years and they have not won a race since 2012. Williams, however, denied they were in a terminal decline.
“We’ve had two bad years,” she said. “Any team can have two bad years and it’s what you do as a result of those two bad years and learn from your mistakes and pull yourself up. To say that Williams has been in a long-term spiral of decline is probably slightly exaggerated or erroneous.”
F1 is set to announce its new calendar for the European leg of the season early this coming week. The Austrian government has now completed its assessment of the sport hosting races at the Red Bull Ring and given its consent. The season will open there on 5 July with another at the circuit the following weekend, before a triple-header is completed in Hungary on 19 July. Two races at Silverstone, pencilled in for 2 and 9 August, remain to be confirmed subject to government quarantine rules on entry to the UK or F1 being granted an exemption. Spain is set to follow on 16 August, with Belgium and Italy concluding Europe’s meetings on 30 August and 6 September.