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Time of change for Williams Racing


By Andrew Hooper
June 28 2020

With one week to go before the 2020 Formula One season restarts the Williams Racing team has seen, despite what essentially has been a lockdown period for the teams, a massive amount of activity taking place ranging from the announcement of a Sale process been commenced through to the announcement of the loss of the team main sponsor and with the arrival of new staff and just recently the unveiling of the new 2020 colour scheme for the FW43. A time for change the Williams team.

 
 Time of change for Williams Racing
 
2020 Williams Colours
 

With one week to go before the 2020 Formula One season restarts the Williams Racing team has seen, despite what essentially has been a lockdown period for the teams, a massive amount of activity taking place ranging from the announcement of a Sale process been commenced through to the announcement of the loss of the team main sponsor and with the arrival of new staff and just recently the unveiling of the new 2020 colour scheme for the FW43. A time for change the Williams team.

For the Williams team the major focus has to have been the announcement that the team was looking for increased investment even if it could see a potential sale of the team. For deputy team principal Claire Williams it has been a period of not having to only cope with the uncertainty of the coronavirus and the financial strain that this was placing on the team but also coping with the announcement of the possibility that the team could be sold. As she described in an interview with Autocar this period was one of aiming to secure further "urgent" investment for the team in order to regain competitiveness. This been after a series of setbacks; two difficult years, the loss of the team major sponsor, Covid virus, a poor financial report, as well as continued uncertainty over their competitiveness, which had created the “perfect storm” for the team.

After two years that had seen the team finish last in the championship the team, amongst the whole of Formula One, would have to cope with the abandonment of the 2020 season as a result of the Coronavirus. This would see the team go into a period of lockdown where staff would be furloughed. There would be so much uncertainty as to when the season would restart but to add to their own issues the Williams team would make public their 2019 financial reports showing a significant loss for Williams Grand Prix Engineering. It was at this time that the team would announce their plans to commence the search of further investment even if that process meant a possible sale of the team and potentially the disappearance of the Williams name.

But despite the continued uncertainty there has been positive news coming from the team with the announcement of Simon Roberts in the role of Managing Director, bringing a wealth of experience to the Williams team. Also there was more certainty in terms of the future financial expenditures with new F1 regulations including the announcement of budget caps. Even the teams move to commence the sale process was one of aiming to move away from having to struggle to be competitive on a very limited budget. Hopefully it will allow the team to look beyond paying drivers to supplement the teams budget. Combined with this were announcements which revealed that the team has the funding well into 2021.

In this interview Claire would comment: “We started talking about the need for new investment last year. Before the virus was even on the horizon. We decided that if we were ever going to punch our weight again we needed support beyond what we could raise from the F1 prize fund or sponsorship.

“Our overriding desire is to find the best outcome for the team. If that means a full sale, it’s okay. If it means sale of a majority as a path to a full sale, so be it. Or if it means someone wants to come in and work alongside us, that’s fantastic. We could probably scrabble the funds together to keep going, but we’ve been doing that for too long. It’s time for change.”

Claire would add: “The current situation is completely changed by the new regulations. And funnily enough, the ante has been upped further by the way the virus has affected us all. We’ve come together to realise we have to do a better job of creating parity within the sport and of getting costs down.”

Been what is essentially the last independent team in Formula One the Williams team is keen to see the arrival of changes such as the budget cap which should help to restore the teams competitiveness. Combined with this 2021 will see the teams race their 2020 chassis allowing Williams to make “an enormous difference” to terms of their expenditure over the 2020 season in not having to design and build a fresh car. Combined with this is the move to see teams required to manufacture much more of their own components, something that Williams has been doing for their whole history.

Claire spoke of this by saying: “Until now, being an independent hasn’t made a whole lot of sense. But we believe, and thankfully so do the new administrators, that doing your own design and engineering should not be allowed to be a disadvantage.

As for where the sale process is at the team is not allowed to comment but Claire did say that she was “impressed by the quality” of the potential investors.

As for the positive moves in regard to staffing at Williams it has also included the arrival of Dave Worner from Red Bull taking on the role of chief designer. James Colgate had been appointed to the role of Director of operations looking at restoring the processes within the team to be bring back competiveness in this area of the business. This strategic review process within the team continues despite the season restarting in a short period of time.

One person who know the inside story of the Williams team is Patrick Head. He recently spoke to Motor Sport and said that the team cannot survive if they continue to be at the rear of the field. He said: “You cannot run an F1 commercially finishing tenth out of ten consistently."

“For this year it’s very important they get back in the hunt. I’m not naive enough to think they will be battling with the top three teams but I hope they will be in amongst what would be called the lower midfield. From there they have to work their way back and upwards." Head would praise deputy team principal Claire Williams for “putting together a significant budget for this year"

So where does this time of change leave Williams Racing? Sort of in no-mans land at the moment with many pieces of the plan for the future in  place but so many others, primarily the hunt for further investment of even the sale of the team, yet to be resolved. But the plans that the management of the team have for the future would seem to be on track to returning the team to been a competitive Formula One team. But the biggest question of all has to be the performance of the new FW43 and we won't find out about that until the first race in Austria.

 

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Time of change for Williams Racing
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