Williams appoints Roberts as managing director for F1 team

2020 F1 season

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Former McLaren chief operations officer Simon Roberts will join Williams in the newly-created role of managing director for its Formula 1 team next month. He will start work at the team once the mandatory factory shutdown period has been completed.

Roberts, pictured left with Andrea Stella, previously ran McLaren’s engineering and factory operations. He will be given responsibility for the design and development of the team’s F1 cars, the factory operation and planning function. Roberts will report to CEO Mike O’Driscoll.

“Simon will bring enormous experience and knowledge to the Williams team,” said Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams. “He will lead a highly talented team that’s looking forward to designing and developing the next generation of Williams F1 cars.”

Roberts has spent the vast majority of his Formula 1 career with McLaren. He joined the team in 2003 having previously worked in the motor industry. Following a brief secondment to Force India, he rejoined McLaren in 2010, and became the team’s COO in 2017.

Williams is seeking to rebuild after sinking to the back of the Formula 1 field in recent years. The team finished last in the 2018 and 2019 championships.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 17 comments on “Williams appoints Roberts as managing director for F1 team”

    1. Weird structure: hire an MD to report to a CEO, and have a deputy team principal reporting to a team principal with an unclear link to the CEO.
      I don’t think Williams needs an even more top-heavy and confusing management structure.

      Not surprising they need a modern slavery statement ;)

      1. @coldfly They’re a large company in the UK. In theory, that alone requires the statement. I see nothing in the structure that would make the statement more or less necessary.

        1. ColdFly (@)
          13th May 2020, 6:08

          Sarcasm.

    2. Weird structure: hire an MD to report to a CEO, and have a deputy team principal reporting to a team principal with an unclear link to the CEO.
      I don’t think Williams needs an even more top-heavy and confusing management structure.

      1. Looks to me as though they see Claire and Frank as figureheads or face of the franchise whilst moving them away from the day to day running or technical management.

      2. O paper it seem confusing but it’s not. Think of Claire’s role as a Niki Lauda or Helmut Marko. She doesn’t add much to the actual operations her self, but she makes sure everyone across the team is doing their jobs. Frank is basically like Dietrich Matechitz, Mansour Ojjeh. (Team owner). So it should work out similarly to RedBull, Mercedes/McLaren.

        1. She doesn’t add much to the actual operations her self, but she makes sure everyone across the team is doing their jobs.

          That’s the definition of the role of an MD/CEO (roughly the same). So why have two more guys with the same role/title in the organisation? @david-beau
          I guess Claire’s role could be demoted to running the non-technical side.
          But then still you need to resolve the Mike/Simon overlap. Remember that Williams sold off their Advanced Engineering division. So what is there to do for a group CEO? They already have a separate Chairman.

      3. @coldfly It sounds like Simon is running the factory (more or less what he did at Force India – very well, I might add – back in 2009).

        He reports to Claire, who co-ordinates between factory and race track while also being the travelling “face” of the team (and possibly filling in management gaps on the trackside team as and when they emerge).

        Frank is the “factory” face of the team and assists on the board with his experience… the same board that Mike runs. (Also, note that a large stake was sold of Advanced Engineering, not the whole thing – the part that remains connected to Williams still has to be co-ordinated).

        No overlap, from what I can see.

        1. (Self-correction: Frank is not on the board – though I am sure he will advise any board member who asks him for it. Which I really should have remembered *facepalm*)

        2. ColdFly (@)
          13th May 2020, 6:22

          Simon doesn’t report to Claire, @alianora-la-canta.

          Roberts will report to CEO Mike O’Driscoll.

          1. @coldfly Thank you for the correction!

    3. The top heavy structure is always a sign of an organisation unwilling to deal with the real problem, and In this case it appears to me the problem is Frank and Clare Williams and the culture they bring with them. It’s outdated, cumbersome and inefficient. This is the third expensive sticking plaster. First Lowe, then brining back an old time partner, now another layer of management.

      The founder is no longer a beneficial influence and his daughter seems negative one from an outsiders perspective. They are stuck in the past, with a creaking ethos of the old timers way out of kilter with the slick corporate energisers like Wolf, Stroll, …. It’s like watching g a fish try to ride a bike. The same problem as Ferrari without the oodles of cash.

      A root and branch organisational revolution is needed. No more “This is my team and I’ll interfere when I want to”.

    4. The stupid in me for whatever reason thought Robert Kubica had been appointed as the new MD of Williams. I have grown to associate Robert & Williams with Robert Kubica.

    5. Eric Rocheteau
      11th May 2020, 15:55

      This is a great appointment for Williams. Simon Roberts was one of the top executives at McLaren Racing and highly respected. He did a great job at stabilizing Force India when he was seconded there. I suspect he left when he was not made Team Principal and Andreas Seidl was recruited.

      This is not a top heavy structure. Mike O’Driscoll is the Company CEO, Simon Roberts will run the F1 team. Sir Frank (78) is just the founder and majority shareholder, and has not been on the Board of Directors for years. Claire is the public face of the team (due to her name) and involved in commercial matters. The real authority has been Mike O’Driscoll since 2013.

      1. Claire is the public face of the team (due to her name) and involved in commercial matters.

        She acts like more than only the public face. Since her promotion she is the de-facto team principal; Paddy Lowe reported into her.
        Maybe Simon is as good as you say, but it is still weird to have an MD, a CEO, and 2 team principals. This is even more so ridiculous since they sold off the only other division of the group a couple of weeks ago.

        Williams might be British, but their organisational titles are more like an American company.
        What’s next? Make the wheel gun guys vice presidents?

        1. … Paddy Lowe reported into her.

          Oh dear, @coldfly, it was worse than we suspected.

          Although… VP of Wheel Turning has a nice ring to it. Maybe Keith could offer signature lines so we all can be Assistant Chief Executive Officers of Offhand Comments.

    6. Deja-vu, all over again. Simon Roberts will spend his time identifying the problems that urgently need fixing at Williams, only to discover he’s not allowed to do anything and he’ll be on his way out. I’ll give him a year at the most.

      Unless, Frank Williams finally accepts his time is past and allows a new owner to take over the team.

    Comments are closed.