Williams exclusive: ‘It’s not what you have, it’s how you spend it’


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Williams placed third in the championship three years ago, yet three races into the 2018 F1 season it is the only team yet to score a point.

In an exclusive interview with RaceFans’ special contributor @DieterRencken, Claire Williams explains why the changes coming to F1 in 2021 are vital for this historic team.

Timing is, as they say, “everything”. The idiom does not, though, imply convenient timing – and so it proved with my request for an interview with Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal of the multiple F1 championship-winning outfit founded by her father (Sir) Frank. It was granted for Bahrain.

Claire Williams, Williams, Melbourne, 2018
Williams became the team’s deputy head in 2013
At the time of my request – in Spain, during testing – the team’s pre-season testing suggested reasonable pace. It hadn’t set the circuit alight but was far from slowest through the traps and had covered more laps than most. With Mercedes power units in the back and Robert Kubica in the simulator, 2018 looked promising.

That the team had made the least pre-season testing progress over 2017 was concerning, but Lance Stroll qualified 14th in Australia, and with Sergey Sirotkin being a rookie with little knowledge of the Albert Park circuit, things could only get better. Thus I prepared for a good news interview in Bahrain; it was scheduled for post-FP3 on Saturday, so shortly before qualifying. My timing could hardly have been worse…

Claire puts on a brave face, but the discussion is painful for us both. The two cars are rock-bottom on the timing screens and the feeling as we sit down is that qualifying won’t be much better. (It is, marginally: Sirotkin beats a Sauber to 18th, but Stroll, who last year qualified 12th in his third grand prix, is plum last.)

Still, I need to ask the question: What is going on? “I think turning the fortunes of an F1 team around is not the work of a moment,” Claire says after much deliberation. “It’s hard work; Formula One is hard work. We’ve done everything we can possibly do at the top level in order to turn the team around.”

She pauses to reflect on recent disappointments, particularly 2012/13, when the team placed eighth and ninth respectively despite (rather fortuitously) winning in Spain in 2012, then: “We did a good job in 2013 [of restructuring], and then we had a great couple of years.

“And now,” Claire continues, “unfortunately we again seem to be facing similar circumstances. We brought in some senior figures last year.”

Williams placed third in the 2014/5 constructors championships and fifth in 2016/7. To address its recent slippage, the team recruited Paddy Lowe as technical director from Mercedes in March 2017. It was a return to the team for Lowe, who was a senior member between 1987 and 1993 when it enjoyed its greatest successes.

Last year’s car was a done deal when he arrived but much was expected of his first Williams, this year’s FW41, particularly after some high profile recruits.

“Of course we came into the season believing that we were going to turn things around. Maybe it’s a case of managing expectations. I don’t believe it’s as simple as just plugging in a few senior heads. This is a big organisation, there’s some 600 people working in our Formula One team.

“Obviously we’ve got issues that could be percolating with them, just at the senior, senior level and we need to address those issues. To say ‘It’s not where we wanted to be’ is the grossest understatement that you could imagine.” It is visibly as painful for Claire as it sounds.

I figure it is time to address the overall inexperience of the driver line-up: There was a time when one of the top four or five drivers was driving for Williams. It seems for every step forward, the team takes half a step back…


Why is that?

“If [only] I knew…

It could be financial, I venture; after all, since the current inequitable revenue structure every race was won by one of the Big Three, who in 2016/7 also locked out every podium save one (Baku), which Williams and Stroll claimed. Surprisingly Claire isn’t buying into that.

“No, I think that it would be very easy to blame the current financial distribution model in our sport; it would be very easy to blame a lack of budget. But then teams around us working with the same budget as us, or even less, and they’re seemingly able to do a better job than us, unfortunately. The problems start at home, they always do. I’m not going to air our dirty linen in public, as I said at the press conference.”

I remind her that during that Friday’s FIA team principal press conference I had asked those present whether they should not consider switching to the Haas model of sourcing as many parts as permitted from a ‘big sister’ team. Is it possibly not time to change the Williams business model?

“I was very clear on my answer, wasn’t I? I could live to regret that… The model that Haas have, the model that Force India have to a lesser degree, is not something that we subscribe to at Williams. We certainly haven’t in the past. We feel we are a whole constructor, a holistic constructor. We’re very proud of the fact that we design, build and develop our race cars fully in-house. Very, very little is out-sourced.

“Whether that’s a relevant approach in this day and age under the operating circumstances that we find ourselves in in Formula One at the moment, maybe it’s not. But that’s where we are at the moment, and so that’s what we have to work with.”

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The issue, though, is that the current revenue structure is cast in stone until end-2020, and Williams is carrying a far larger overhead than the others. Can the team stick it out until 2021, or could it become a casualty?

“We have to stick it out until 2021, we don’t have an option. We will always be in Formula One; that’s what we do. So we have to keep fighting and all we can do at the moment is ask people to dig a bit deeper, to keep pushing and to try and understand why we are where we are and try and resolve where we are.

Paddy Lowe, Lawrence Stroll, Bahrain, 2018
Paddy Lowe (talking to Lawrence Stroll) designed the 2018 car
Then, somewhat pointedly: “I’m not an engineer; I can’t get in there and start trying to fiddle around with the engineers and what they do. That’s why we have people like Paddy and people like Dirk de Beer…”

But, her name is on the door, I point out. More pain: “My name is on the door, and at the moment it’s not a very proud moment to have [the family] name on the door.”

If the root cause is not F1’s lopsided revenue structure, why then was she recently quoted by The Sunday Times (of London) as saying “Formula One is broken”?*

“I thought it was for a book,” she says, having been under the impression that the quotes would be used only for a book being authored by the journalist concerned.

Either way, in the past Claire had consistently refused to criticise F1’s 2013-20 revenue and governance agreements. I point out the team’s former CEO and chairman Adam Parr had, according to paddock patter (and comments in his book “The Art of War”) refused to subscribe to F1’s inequitable structure – and been invited out of F1 for his efforts.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? And what happened, happened. I wasn’t involved in it. I don’t believe that the revenue structure is fair and equitable, I’ve been really clear about that. It’s not. You just have to look at the numbers to know that it’s not fair, nor equitable.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Shanghai International Circuit, 2018
Williams can’t compete on budget with F1’s front runners
“For me, I’ve always believed that any sport should operate and should start its operations on an equitable playing field. And what teams can do over and above that when it comes to attracting sponsorship income, then that’s all well and good.

“I think what we’re just seeing at the moment is something that probably none of us predicted, which is the bigger manufacturers coming in, or the Red Bulls that have access to huge amounts, they’re spending much more than they ever did. They weren’t spending 300, 400 million, five, 10 years ago.”

I point out that Williams wasn’t spending 150 million [in whatever currency she is talking] ten years ago, that Williams has always operated on lower budgets than the Big Boys, which was admirable and indicative of its underdog spirit. For example, when Williams won the 1992 title with Nigel Mansell the figure that was bandied about was around 30 million pounds, while Ferrari had 100 million or so – three times the Williams budget.

“Yeah, and I’ve always said, and they said yesterday, it’s not how much money you have, it’s how you spend it. There are examples of teams that have had huge budgets, and not won. We’ve seen that in the past. But I don’t believe you can fight on the other extreme when you’ve got such a small budget. Because you can’t do everything that you want to do. You have make compromises and you have to make difficult decisions.”

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Time to be upbeat: Claire had been optimistic during the Friday media conference about Liberty’s post-2020 proposals. Does she believe concepts such as a cost cap and a revision of the revenue and governance structures could be too little, too late?

“I’m pleased that [the proposals] happened now. I’ve never subscribed to the expression ‘Too little too late’, really. When you’re in a situation where change happens, then whenever it happens, it happens for the better and that’s a good thing. And you just grab it when it comes along.

F1 2021 article
F1 2021: Liberty’s masterplan for Formula One’s future uncovered
“So I’m pleased with what’s happened now. And I’ve always been positive about Formula One because Formula One is a great sport. I don’t feel positive about it just because this is all we do. We love what we do, and it is a great sport, and it has too many people trying to tear it down, be negative about it.

“Let’s talk about the positives in Formula One, of which there are so many. Yesterday’s news, yesterday’s announcement, the proposals laid down, I do believe that they are the right things for our sport. They have to be. And I believe we will keep fighting until 2021 when we can take advantage of it. And I hope that players up and down the paddock don’t try and jeopardise that. Because we’ve got to protect teams like ours.”

The proposed $150m budget cap could have been tailored for Williams, as that is the team’s approximate operating budget. I point out that the bigger teams will need to restructure and lay off personnel.

“I don’t know the exact numbers, and yes, of course it’s going to be difficult for teams to restructure and reorganise, and yeah, of course the thought of anybody losing their job as a result is not something we welcome in any way, shape or form. It pains me to say, but sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture for the sake of the sport.”

We discuss the ramifications of the budget cap, and it is clear why Williams, the third-oldest team in F1 after Ferrari and McLaren welcomes the proposed cost disciplines.

“If I look at it from my perspective, if we don’t do this, then Williams will close, the whole of the company. We’re very lucky. [Friday] I was very positive about it, but then there are some of the people that are very negative about it. We are lucky that this works for us, but it think it probably demonstrates the fact that our team, track performance aside, is a good model of how a Formula One team should be operating in our sport.

Sergey Sirotkin, Williams, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018
After five years, Martini is leaving Williams
With the impending exit of title sponsor Martini the arrival of Sirotkin points to obvious commercial opportunities in Russia. But the current political climate makes this a thorny subject.

“It’s a huge market, we all know that. I think there are some difficulties with where we are in the political landscape at the moment with Russia, so probably not easy…It ebbs and flows, and as long as we do our diligence, then we’re open for business with Russia, and we hope that having a Russian driver helps support our efforts over there.”

Sirotkin is one half Williams’ inexperienced driver pairing – the youngest on the grid. The team has been more used to fielding experienced drivers. But on the subject of whether Williams is geared up to nurture young talent Claire is delighted to switch tack, and positively beams for the first time in 20 minutes.

“Yes,” she says. “100 per cent. We’re very different as an organisation from the Frank and Patrick (Head) era. I think you have to be. I think all teams probably are. Maybe that’s just through the personalities that you have now running the teams are involved at that level and in that area of your team.

“It is important to nurture your talent. You can’t just use your talent; you have to build your talent. You have to build their capability; you have to build their esteem; you have to build their confidence. Because by doing that, it’s the way you’re going to achieve the most out of them. Sports psychology has grown considerably in the past decade that perhaps wasn’t available to the team principals 20 years ago.

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Sergey Sirotkin, Lance Stroll, Williams, Albert Park, 2018
Williams’ junior talent needs “nurturing”
“We all know the benefits of nurturing your talent rather than just flogging your talent in the hope that would do the trick, and make him perform better.”

How does the team go about achieving that?

“Communication,” she says. “You give them the right tools, whether they be sports psychologists, whether that be additional coaching away from the race track, which comes in various different guises. So you have a whole programme, and then we make sure that the drivers have that holistic approach.

“We make sure that we talk to them; we make sure that they feel understood and that their opinion is respected, and that they’re important. But equally they have to feel an instrumental part of the team, but that they’re no different to anybody else, everybody has a contributing position, within our team anyway.

I saw certain racing drivers doing yoga by the pool this morning, and if you would have told me that Nigel Mansell would have done yoga by the pool back in the 1980s, I would have had a heart attack. But times change.”

Oh, and who were they?

“I’m not telling you. [But] I think it’s a great thing. That’s human nature. It evolves, doesn’t it? And we all want to be better versions of ourselves. And there are certain things that help us achieve that. And if you want to be the best, then you have to evolve too?

It seems a perfect time to stop. The team once evolved to be the best in F1. Yet if ever a team needed to evolve further simply to ensure its survival, it is the one with Claire’s family name on the door.

*The Sunday Time, 25 March 2018 quotes: “The sport is fundamentally broken. When I took on this role, I genuinely believed that we could win, but now I don’t know how we could do it. You always have to have hope, and I always had that naive spirit that if you work hard then you will get your just rewards, but how do you do it? I just don’t know.

“I have come to terms with the fact that nobody outside the Big Three teams can win. When I took over, I told myself and everybody else that, of course, teams can win. But the financial gap is now so insurmountable that it is not now possible. I think that is so sad.”

Follow Dieter on Twitter: @RacingLines


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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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54 comments on “Williams exclusive: ‘It’s not what you have, it’s how you spend it’”

  1. Very nice article.

    I remind her that during that Friday’s FIA team principal press conference I had asked those present whether they should not consider switching to the Haas model of sourcing as many parts as permitted from a ‘big sister’ team. Is it possibly not time to change the Williams business model?

    “I was very clear on my answer, wasn’t I? I could live to regret that… The model that Haas have, the model that Force India have to a lesser degree, is not something that we subscribe to at Williams. We certainly haven’t in the past. We feel we are a whole constructor, a holistic constructor. We’re very proud of the fact that we design, build and develop our race cars fully in-house. Very, very little is out-sourced.

    I wasn’t aware of Williams’ advanced engineering division, but having read up on them, I can see and understand the motivation behind Claire’s decision. Seeing the overlap between the F1 team’s needs and what the engg side offers, it would not appear good if the F1 team went the Haas route.

    Haas’ business is further upstream in CNC machines, so they would escape such an issue.

  2. Armchair analyst but from long quotes and the williams documentary, it seems to me that Claire Williams is a formidable yet deaply unhappy woman. Hope I’m wrong but it always seemed to me that she has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Obviously, today’s situation won’t help much in that regard.

    Great interview Dieter ! I probably don’t write it enough but I’m loving Racefans.net added content. These type of articles and analysis don’t usually draw the same amount of comments as run of the mill race reports (and admittedly, these are great too) but they are a top notch addition and definitely pushed me to renew happily my subscription.

    1. Couldn’t comment on the first paragraph, but certainly second your words in the other one.

      Great work Keith and Dieter, really enjoying all the content so far this season. (Is it bad that I still type in F1Fanatic and just get redirected…? :-) … )

      1. Is it bad that I still type in F1Fanatic and just get redirected

        @ben-n Took me a while to retrain my muscle memory from ‘F’ to ‘R’, and after some weeks ‘R’ took over Reddit as the first suggestion!

        1. Same here :D

      2. Is it bad that I still type in F1Fanatic and just get redirected

        Still do it, never gonna change.
        Even though GPUpdate changed to Autosport, I still press G.

      3. Nope, I even just do “F1” –> Enter and it brings me to racefans :)

    2. @tango Claire watched the golden years of Williams, she was raised during that time, in her head that is Williams, not the team we see today.

      It was painful to read some parts of this interview, I’ve been criticising around here their model, especially how the reasons behind their driver selection, but it seems that for some reason Claire Williams had to pick those two. I’m sure that if they could they would have pick the most talented available, but they couldn’t and she has to sell it another way.

      Williams F1 isn’t the same as any other team in the paddock, it is part of a family, for her it is not business, not just a job, she carries a legacy. This sentence says it all regarding their current state and what she feels about it:

      My name is on the door, and at the moment it’s not a very proud moment to have [the family] name on the door.

      It’s almost like she admits that she can’t do anything else, and still those two cars are no way near the top. They will have to dig deep and certainly hope new regulation levels the playing field, that is the only thing that might bring the Williams Claire believes still exists.

      1. You get my vote (if there were one) for COTD, @johnmilk

        1. The begining of the rot for williams was paying a kings ransom for ralf and monty coupled with the wind tunnel stuff up..they never recovered from those disasterous years.

  3. …it is clear why Williams … welcomes the proposed cost disciplines.
    “If I look at it from my perspective, if we don’t do this, then Williams will close, the whole of the company.

    I think this excerpt comes back to the question @johnmilk raised.

    Either the Williams Advanced Engineering division is propping up Williams F1 (which is fine, that’s what Red Bull/Haas are all doing by treating F1 as marketing/exposure), or, as Claire seems to imply, it is the F1 team propping up the other side.

    The current climate of motorsport is one where motorsport is used for brand visibility. In such an environment, Claire’s statement sounds worryingly like the tail wagging the dog – that Advanced Engineering haven’t broken even to run on their own, and its future is tightly dependent on the fortunes of the F1 team.

    To be clear, I don’t want to see another team bow out of F1 (after Manor), but I also don’t want to view the situation with the rose-tinted glasses of Williams’ motorsport heritage.

    1. @phylyp if it is indeed the F1 program banking the Advanced Engineering division, it doesn’t sound like healthy business. I would think that if a company that spins-off from a sport like F1 would be to take advantage of the knowledge gathered trough the years and make a profitable business out of it (another reason why the Haas model isn’t suitable for Williams, while a budget cap is, essentially every engineering services company works on a pre-defined budget, either from a client or internally for R&D purposes for example), granted the profit that comes from it probably isn’t enough to fund an F1 team, but it should be able to stand on its own. There is the possibility as well, and most likely it is what Claire Williams means by that sentence, is that both programs are so tight together technically that there is no reason for one to exist without the other, as ultimately if the F1 program finishes there will be no source of IP for the advanced engineering division. Not all companies work like this, but we are talking about the Williams family, born raised racing, that is their spirit and probably that way of going about their business is what gives the impression to @tango that Claire isn’t happy

  4. Williams potentially had the second best car in 2014 and 2015, but Bottas was inexperienced and Massa, as seen from his Ferrari days, wasn’t exactly a top-tier driver. If they’d had at least one better driver in car I think it would have had a huge effect on them, the better driver would have pulled in better results, helped develop the car better, and more revenue would allow for even more car development.

    Force India’s success during 2016 and 2017 highlights what a difference drivers make, they put the best drivers available to them in the car and despite their budget constraints hauled in the best championship result possible.

    And Williams has taken a step backwards on driver quality, I think it’s a terrible decision because it’s exacerbating their decline and making it even less likely a decent driver will consider them.

    1. Bottas was p4 in the championship in 2014! What on earth do you think a better driver could do? Williams also raced extremely conservatively and did many strategic plunders in that year that robbed some good results from bottas. Bottas is the best driver williams has had in 10 years. The 2014 williams had only two good things about it. The mercedes engine and bottas.

  5. The driver line-up issue at Williams has obviously come to a head this year, for a very clear reason, but in truth they haven’t had “one of the top four or five drivers” racing for them in a very long time. While Bottas and Massa was a strong line up, in isolation, there would be anywhere between five and ten drivers you’d choose over them given a blank cheque-book.

    You have to go back to 2004, nearly 15 years ago, when Montoya was driving for the team to find the last time that statement was true. Then, before that, you’d need to arguably go back to the signing of Ayrton Senna in 1994 for the previous top tier driver.

    The culture at Williams for the last 25 years hasn’t been geared to having the best drivers; rather trying to make up for average-to-good yet affordable drivers with a great car, as they did in 1996 and 1997 with Hill and Villeneuve respectively.

    The problem is that in this day and age, winning is a long shot given the dominance of the Top 3 teams. The rest of the teams are so tightly packed that the difference between 4th and 10th could rest in the drivers…

    1. In truth, I’d say that in only 11 of their 40-odd seasons have they had a truly world class driver racing for them (maybe unfairly excluding Alan Jones and Keke Rosberg from that list).

      Rightly or wrongly, the driver line-up has never been the most important factor for Williams, it’s just horribly highlighted this year because it’s so drastically the other way.

      1. That’s quite sad and it is what happens when you pick last. They didn’t have that many great choices this year. And going down the ranking, they are losing attractiveness for drivers and sponsors (that won’t help).
        Not sure their current drivers will provide great inputs to next year’s car design either.

        I hope to be wrong here and would love to see Williams bounce back to a competitive level. Sirotkin development might help, hopefully he will eclipse Stroll during the season…

        1. They didn’t have that many great choices this year.

          Completely agree – the spread was quite thin unfortunately, by the time they came to choose the second driver (assuming Stroll was always going to be retained whether the team wanted to or not…).

          That said, if money were no object, I’d have put Wehrlein or Kvyat in the other seat, if only to give the car some context. We know roughly what they can do and how they measure up to other drivers on the grid. Now they have a mystery box. Has Stroll improved? Has he got worse? Has the car got worse? Is Sirotkin being made to look bad by the car? Is the car being made to look bad by them both? From the outside at least, I couldn’t begin to tell you – perhaps that’s what Williams wants.

          1. Although i want to agree with in the mystery box thing, i think its not completely right.
            Teams have all sorts of telemetry so they know for example how the cars perform even when they are not in full Q3 mode. They can project differences in weight and engine power into lap times difference. So i think they know what the car is capable off and how their drivers perform. At least within 2 or 3 tenths of a lap.

            Remember, cars change every year and drivers are rarely always performing at their limit, so they must have other means to calculate real performance

    2. Right now, Williams have more problems than inexperienced drivers. True, Sirotkin is a rookie and we need to wait and see how he develops. True, Stroll is in his only 2nd season of F1, but is an accomplished driver from the lower categories. But overall, Williams are not necessarily one of the impoverished teams. With Mercedes-Benz engine, Paddy Lowe in the factory and Kubica also involved in the development of this year’s car…they simply should have done better than this.

      1. I disagree with a lot of that… Firstly, the Mercedes-Benz engine isn’t the advantage it was 3-4 years ago. It may well still be the best, but the performance of Force India so far this year shows us that it’s not an automatic ticket to the points. Has Paddy Lowe had enough time to wield his influence yet? I’m not sure.

        Mentioning Kubica is strange… he was only even talking to Williams from about October (IIRC) and certainly didn’t drive the car until very late in the year. His input from that would have been limited and likely worth less than that of Massa or even Stroll.

        I’m sure the car is far from a world beater, but if a 0.5 – 1 seconds a lap could be found with a better driver (as Massa showed against Stroll last year), the year would be looking a lot brighter.

  6. Always been one of my favorite teams but they have really lost there way the last few seasons.

    Wonder if there choice in drivers stems back to the 80/90’s when they had a some of the best machinery but even then refused to pay big money for top drivers… A number a champions where let go after winning the championship with Williams Piquet, Mansell, Prost, Hill etc.

    The midfield is so competitive that the drivers make a hell of a diffrence, it is very hard to have sympathy for Williams when you look at there driver lineup…

    On another note I was really hoping Paddy would have a big influence… perhaps it is still coming…

    1. Well, when Piquet left was world champion but no more at his best after the Imola incident, and they have Mansell who was the one that won more and lost two titles due to a tyre explosion and an injury. When Mansell left they took Prost and when the latter left they took Senna. Hill left but they had Villeneuve who was a champion contender in his first season and they took Frentzen who was regarded as the one who can be fast as Schumacher.
      Their philosophy was somehow near to the “Drake era” Ferrari, the car is more important than the drivers, with the difference that Williams to attract the best drivers need to be the best car.
      In the ’87 they lost the sponsor money and the best engine (Honda), and after the terribile ’88 Mansell went to Ferrari. They work hard, find Renault as a partner and hired Newey from Leyton House, and from 1991 to 1997 they won 4 wdc, and lost the other only to Senna and Schumacher. After Newey’s departure, McLaren starts to win titles and fight against Schumacher/Ferrari and Williams had only a season with BMW, Montoya and Michelin in 2003 when was competitive enough to fight for the Championship again.

  7. Very good article. Williams sounds like a very decent woman and of all the teams i´d like to see fail big time williams was never on the list :-(
    Here are some thoughts of mine considering the article:

    I don´t think that claire williams has the luxury of being more political than she needs to be considering russian advertisers. Esspecially since f1 doesn´t have any problems hugging dictators… She isn´t a geopolitical player, so why trying to be one? Money doesn´t stink.

    Further, i don´t think it´s her obligation to think about other teams problems with the cost cap. The other teams have highly paid teams to think about their interests, and won´t hesitate for a milisecond to take any advantage they can without giving any thought about williams at all. It´s not her problem at this point and she has enough problems to think about.

    Lance may be a bigger roadblock than she realizes, cause every driver knows, that if they sign with williams, lance is going to get the new part first, so your teammate is always in an unbeatable superposition. Not to mention that these drivers can´t hide any shortcommings of the car.

    Finally i´d advise her never to say that money isn´t the problem. Always say that a 1€ check could turn everything around. Potential financiers should have at least some hope that their money can turn the fortunes of the team.

  8. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    18th April 2018, 14:03

    I like Liberty’s prize schedule but I’m not sure about the budget caps.

    Teams that join the sport and want to do well, will obviously need to spend more money than the existing teams so it might deter well-heeled teams from joining and struggling.

    I would prefer Liberty to institute financial incentives to remain within a budget that are tied to the prize schedule. The more a team spends relative to the position in the WCC, the less you receive so teams have an incentive to remain within a bracket to avoid losing 20 million in prize money.

    Mercedes exceeds a suggest budget of $200 million for coming P2 in the WCC (the $200 million cap applies to the top 3 teams). They have spent $240 million. The penalty for overspending is $50 cents on the dollar so they receive $20 million less in prize money which, and this is the kicker, lower teams end up getting evenly. This allows teams to overspend but doing so helps the other teams under them in the WCC.

    Budget caps also run the risk of inviting teams to get very creative with the accounting aspect especially by teams purchasing other teams – you pay them 1 billion instead of 300 million (with payments) and you suddently have 700 extra million over all the other teams. The audits will have to be crazy and regulations will need to always favor the cap, not the loophole.

    Here’s an example – Ferrari might buy Haas and spend 50 million a year developing upgrades for their own car that are shared by both vehicles. This might create team consolidation like Walmart where Ferrari owns 4 teams and Mercedes owns 4 and Red Bull owns the rest. In turn, this may create better racing or worse racing but I’m pretty sure we’d all prefer to avoid that situation where 3 teams rule the sport forever.

    They also need to address consolidation and budget overruns from acquiring other teams and they need to address entry into the sport to allow teams to enter the sport and be competitive without the help of another team.

    It’s a tough nut to crack but the budget incentives in conjunction with a tier budget bracket are a lot better tied than the cap – not bad for a morning coffee, right? :-)

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      18th April 2018, 14:08

      Oops, I meant to post this in the other Williams article. I’ll post it there too – please don’t reply here.

      1. I’m replying here

      2. Some people just want to watch the world burn, eh, @johnmilk :-) ?

        1. dare to Zlatan

      3. Otherwise what @freelittlebirds

  9. Equitable distribution of revenues is the key. Not sure if budget cap is also needed, but should it become reality, I have a feeling that any universally agreed-to figure would need to be significantly north of $150 million.

  10. petebaldwin (@)
    18th April 2018, 17:06

    Its not what you have, it’s who drives it.

  11. Really well done. As others have said, it puts you inside running a team on the edge, and it kind of puts a knot in your stomach. I guess what I would have also wanted to know is what they are expecting from Lowe in terms of development style and practice, given that he is an expert in packaging the Mercedes engine. He seems like the key to getting the team on its feet again in the near term.

  12. Excellent article! So far this season, I’m often wondering ‘how bad is the actual Williams car design vs. how bad is their setup vs. how bad are their drivers?’ When you have two drivers that lack experience with setups (remember Stroll used Massa’s setups in the past), it’s very likely that the car’s full potential isn’t being shown. How much faster would the Williams be with a top driver, and how much faster would Stroll or Sirotkin be if they used that top driver’s setup? Would putting Kubica in for every FP1 to fine tune the setup make a noticeable difference?

    I’ve been following F1 long enough to clearly remember Williams’s heyday. It doesn’t shock me that they did well compared to the bigger budget teams — they were more forward thinking. I was a Ferrari fan in the 80’s and 90’s, and it always rankled me that Ferrari were often last to adopt newer trends, like dropping the V12, raising the nose, etc. Williams and Benetton just seemed to be trying more new ideas, and it paid off. I don’t know if the current formula is too constricting, but I would love to see the teams outside the big 3 trying all sorts of imaginative new ideas. I remember in 1991 when the FW14 and Benetton B191 just seemed like such radical ideas when compared to the year before. Don’t get me wrong, the Ferrari 642 and McLaren MP4/6 were just spectacularly beautiful, but the FW14 and B191 showed a lot of new ideas that would become standard over the next few years.

  13. Money isn’t the issue: it’s the regulations demanding teams to spend money on certain areas, like aero, but at the same time limiting them to validate their spendings in a cheap way. This pushes them to a hit & miss scenario of simulations.
    Smaller teams and rookie drivers could be helped by lifting the testing ban, and let them use a testing mule during practice sessions.

  14. Loved the article. It’s sad but that’s the reality Williams now face. Their old model of “build a great car, sign two decent to good drivers” isn’t affordable anymore, and it’s been that way for nearly a decade. Massa and Bottas were just able to mask the already-present problems for a few years. While they never had a huge budget to begin with, their engineers were forward thinkers, and tried new ideas to gain an edge on Ferrari and McLaren. Now, it’s clear they can’t afford to do that anymore. They don’t have the resources to try and be trendsetters. All they can really do is go with tried and true ideas, but unlike Ferrari and McLaren of the 90s, they don’t have drivers capable of squeezing every last bit of performance out of the car. I guess Stroll’s comment of “we’re not racing, we’re surviving” rings even truer than many of us thought.

    1. Its has been clear ever since Stroll joined.

  15. I believe the biggest underachiever at Williams is Paddy Lowe. The guy was brought in from Mercedes with great fanfare to implement the Mercedes way of designing, building and racing F1 cars to great success. By all accounts, the 2018 car is slower than than the 2017. In other team sports, the head coach is often fired because the players are underperforming. I think Paddy Lowe is vastly overrated. I think PADDY LOWE´S GOTTA GO!

    1. Forza Maldonado
      19th April 2018, 3:47

      This sounds like the kind of knee-jerk reaction football fans make every time their club loses. Sacking Lowe after 3 races accomplishes absolutely nothing. What are Williams going to do, magically conjure a B-spec car in time for Baku?

      The car may be slow, but let’s be honest: this isn’t a case of 2 good drivers being held back by a poor car.

  16. Williams blowing hot air, Force India have less money and are far superior than Williams as are Haas, Sauber not far off. Sometimes when something is old and dieing it should be put down. Maybe its Williams time.

  17. Great article, although indeed an unpleasantly painfull one as well, especially for those of us who still see Williams as a team that was one of the winners.

  18. Unfortunately Williams were the first team to break ranks and sign up to this current agreement with Bernie, and that started the domino run as teams rushed to get the best possible deals for themselves before being left in the cold.
    That action and this agreement is why F1 is in the mess it is today, so there is some justice that Williams is suffering under it.

    From what she has to say in the interview about pampering the drivers feelings, & not wanting to air out the teams dirty laundry in public, I suspect she knows exactly where the problem lies … and I suspect that the Stroll family has them all by the short and curlies & their personal agenda is effecting the operation and morale of the entire organisation.

    She seems like a smart and level-headed person, but she may not be ruthless enough to drag this team back up the leaderboard. She needs to be harder with their driver management, their investors and top management, and their suppliers – because I’ve seen Toto & Mercedes taking advantage of her situation – something Frank & Patrick would never have allowed.

  19. The facts seem to be proving that Williams are just not as innovative as they used to be. This could be the designer, the management, or a combination. Having 2 average drivers doesn’t help at all. Strolls father probably has quite an influence on what goes on, and the management need to take control.
    This could mean they lose the sponsorship. So a rock and a hard place!

  20. For example, when Williams won the 1992 title with Nigel Mansell the figure that was bandied about was around 30 million pounds, while Ferrari had 100 million or so – three times the Williams budget.

    But Renault spend 200 million on the engine that actually won Williams those championships at the time.

    Of course if you don’t count the biggest bit of cost then it sounds like they got it for cheap, but that’s just a lie. Ferrari did have to factor the engine development cost into their budget.

    Besides, it was Williams who started the whole budget war. They won their championship on Saudi sponsoring and having the biggest budget. After that everybody had to start putting more and more stickers on their cars.

    McLaren then were the first with an engine deal, but Williams followed with an even more (double) expensive engine deal from Renault.

    Of course in the late nineties the drama began that FIA/FOM started sponsoring Ferrari, paying for them to win all the titles for a decade or so. Indeed that annual 100 million Ferrari payout was a huge amount at the time. Inflating the budgets to extreme heights quite quickly.

    1. The Saudi deal was nowhere near the biggest sponsorship deal at the time: tobacco money dwarfed it. I’d also like to know where you got your Renault engine costs from: the figures I have are not even a quarter that. 25 years later Renault doesn’t even spend much that much on the most complex engines ever, incl supplying three team.

  21. The first team to break ranks was Red Bull, followed by Ferrari. Williams, under Adam Parr, held out until Bernie Ecclestone threatened to withdraw what was a derisory offer given the tesm’s history unless they signed post-haste. Don’t forget that in 2011/2 the team was nowhere. So had no bargaining power.

    Parr was invited out the door and Williams signed. Mercedes threatened EU action and got the same deal as Red Bull subject to winning consecutive titles.

    McLaren held out longest, mainly on behalf of FOTA of which team boss Martin Whitmarsh was chairman – with the Bahrain GP being the bargaining chip: In 2012 the race was under massive political pressure and BE threatened to pull it ‘on political grounds’ unless the Bahrainis (then 50% owners of McL) accepted the deal. So I was told by someone (very) close to the negotiations.

  22. Well you’re spending it wrong!

  23. it’s not how much money you have, it’s how you spend it

    I think this is absolutely true, however this is a lesson that the bigger teams have also learned in the last decade. The budgets for the top teams now are enormous; far higher than ten, fifteen years ago. But the same goes for the smaller teams. Yet if you think about ten or fifteen years ago, the big teams were far less efficient in their spending. Remember the days of the massive launch events; of teams like McLaren rolling out new elaborate motorhome facilities year after year?

    I’ve visited the Force India factory and I can say, start scratching the surface and under the pink you’ll find white, orange, grey, and finally bright yellow paint. They’ve been using the same facilities for over a decade; boiling down to a basic cost decision of “does it make the car go faster?”. Yet this exact mentality has filtered up to the top teams. RBR are still using the same ‘floaterhome’ Energy Station, the pool of which Christian Horner jumped into naked after a podium at the 2006 Monaco GP.

    Mostly I think the combination of the 2008 global financial collapse, allied to the ‘warning from hitory’ of perennial underachievers Toyota, put a lot of pressure on teams with large corporate backing to justify the huge amounts they were spending. I feel that it was Red Bull Racing who managed to successfully adapt to this situation in the early 2010s, and reaped all the rewards that yielded, whereas teams with a more entrenched ‘spend our way to the top’ mindset such as McLaren and Ferrari both slipped backwards.

    Point being, while in the past small teams could make significant gains over big teams by making sure that 100% (or as close to it as possible) of their spending was focused purely on performance, the potential for making those efficiency gains is now far smaller thanks to the big teams adopting a similar mindset.

    The smart gains available now seem to come in the form of technical partnerships – eliminating the need to constantly develop individual parts which aren’t massive performance differentiators. I fully understand the need for Williams to continue making the entire car in house, yet in reality this means spending a disproportionate amount on developing parts which offer no significant performance advantages. This, unfortunately, goes against the tenet of “it’s not how much money you have, it’s how you spend it”. I still feel in the end that Williams are spending less efficiently than a lot of the teams around them who have comparable or smaller budgets, and their current position in the championship reflects that.

  24. Nepotism fails eight out of ten times.
    Memo to Laurence Stroll: Lance Stroll may not have been the best F1 candidate in which to invest $80 million.
    Memo to Frank Williams: Claire Williams may not have been the best candidate for Team Principal.

  25. I find the picture of Laurence Stroll talking to (lecturing to?) Paddy Lowe quite interesting. What are they talking about, optimal rake angles? Caster and camber? Energy balance and optimization simulations and the influence of Lance’s driving style? What could these two possibly be talking about, other than Laurence venting his frustration that the Williams car is not “flattering” Lance and setting him up for a paid ride at Mercedes. Yeah, that’s a helpful conversation and good use of Paddy Lowe’s time.
    Good grief, Williams engineering is a better short than FWONK, and believe me that’s been a good one, down almost 30% since I made the call.

  26. Great article albeit a bit of a hard read as you can almost feel the emotion so well is it written.

    I think that a lot of readers fail to understand that turning performance of a modern day F1 car around is not something that can be achieved quickly. Look at RBR last year, how long did they take?

    Williams’ biggest problem for the last several years (decade, maybe more) is that it’s lost ground over the course of each season rather than gained performance at the same rate as its rivals. This leads to them starting further behind for the next season.

    Unfortunately, there seems to be an inherent problem, whether it be wind tunnel, or just plain incompetence that senior management needs to get on top of and if necessary make some hard decisions.

    Maybe it’s time a team like Williams gets rid of some of the “old guard” designers and engineers and invests in some young raw talent. Surely there’s some out there … teams invest in young driver talent, surely the same could be done with designers and engineers and the budget savings could be massive.

    I feel for Clare, but if she wants the family name that remain in F1, she may need to tear down the house and rebuild it because clearly the current one isn’t anywhere near what a modern day F1 team should be.

    1. Darn… no edit button. Apologies for the misspell of course it’s Claire (facepalm)

  27. a team that produced a slower car than last year should not be talking about efficiency. what a waste.

    and talking about utilizing things that you have. Kubica is ready. just give him a chance. he will score points even with this crappy car, and one hand behind his back.

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