Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams says the decision to offer the team for sale is the best option to secure funding and protect its future.
“It’s obviously very early days and all options are available to us,” said Williams today in response to a question from RaceFans.
“Whether that be purely a capital investment or a divestment of a minority or majority stake or a full sale of the company, all options at this very early stage in the process are open to us and we aren’t ruling anything out.”
The team last won a world championship 23 years ago and has won just one race since 2004. It slumped to last in the championship in 2018, and remained there last year. Williams, however, challenged the idea the 43-year-old team is in “long-term 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. That’s the work that we’ve been doing over the past year and into this year.”
Williams split from chief technical officer Paddy Lowe at the beginning of 2019, when its FW42 was not completed in time for the start of pre-season testing. The team languished at the back of the grid throughout the year and scored a single point in 21 races.
Pre-season testing this year began more promisingly, but the FW43 is yet to be tested in competition due to the pandemic.
“Unfortunately because we couldn’t go racing this year, we couldn’t show people that we’ve made progress,” said Williams. “Obviously prior to those two years we’d had some quite considerable success in ’14 and ’15, finishing third and third and then ’16 and ’17 finishing fifth and fifth.
“So I think to say that Williams has been in a long term spiral of decline is probably slightly exaggerated or erroneous.”
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Formula 1 has approved sweeping new regulations for the coming seasons which will further reduce the budget cap and give teams which finish lower in the championship the chance to do more development work on their cars. Williams is optimistic this will aid her team.
“That for me is incredibly exciting and I think for our team it’s incredibly exciting. I sit here today genuinely very confident about this team’s future and our ability to succeed in our sport again, because the environment in which we can compete is changing.
“The fact that we’re now 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 history.”
One potential consequence, however, is that the Williams name could be lost to the sport. Williams said it’s “far too early to speculate” on how the team might look after it secure the sought-after investment, but is hopeful a new owner would recognise the huge value in the Williams brand.”
“The Williams brand I think is loved by sports teams, sports fans, both in and out of Formula 1. I think it stands for something and I’m sure any investor would recognise that. But that would be a conversation for a later point.”
The team, which was started by her father Sir Frank Williams in 1977, has remained one of F1’s steadfast independents. While the decision to offer it for sale is clearly a sign of the challenging times the team now faces, Williams does not regard the move as a sign of “desperation”, but a rational decision to improve its financial position.
“I think that it’s the right and prudent thing to do,” she said. “Williams as a family have always put our Formula 1 team first.
“I feel very much that seeking inward investment at this juncture is absolutely in line with that philosophy that we’ve always had: To protect our teams each year to protect the people that work for us.”
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