Claire Williams, Williams, Spa-Francorchamps, 2020

Claire Williams and Williams family to step aside from running team

2020 Italian Grand Prix

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Claire Williams and the Williams family will no longer be involved in running the team following this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

The news follows the announce of the team’s sale to private equity fund Dorilton two weeks ago.

The day-to-day running of the team was taken over by Claire, daughter of team founder Sir Frank, in 2013. “It is with a heavy heart that I am stepping away from my role with the team,” she said.

“I had hoped to continue my tenure long into the future and to preserve the Williams family’s legacy into the next generation. However, our need to find inward investment earlier this year due to a number of factors, many of which were outside of our control, resulted in the sale of the team to Dorilton Capital.”

Since the team was founded in 1977 it has won 114 races and claimed the constructors’ championship nine times, more than any team besides Ferrari. Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve all won the world championship in Williams’ cars.

However the team has only won one race in the past 15 years and slipped to last place in the championship in 2018 and 2019. It announced the takeover by Dorilton two weeks ago.

“With the future of the team now secured, this feels like the appropriate time for us to step away from the sport,” said Williams.

“As a family, we have always prioritised Williams. We have demonstrated that by our recent actions with the strategic review process and we believe now is the right time to hand over the reins and give the new owners the opportunity to take the team into the future.

“We have been in this sport for more than four decades. We are incredibly proud of our track record and the legacy we leave behind. We have always been in it for the love of it, for the pure pleasure of going motor racing, so this is not a decision that we have taken lightly but after much reflection and as a family.”

Williams indicated the team’s new owners had offered them the opportunity to remain involved in its running.

George Russell, Williams, Spa-Francorchamps, 2020
Who are the mystery buyers now in charge at Williams?
“We are greatly appreciative of Dorilton’s encouragement to continue, but in them we know the team will be in good hands and the Williams name will live on,” she said. “This may be the end of an era for Williams as a family-run team, but it is the beginning of a new era for Williams Racing and we wish them much success in the future.”

Dorilton Capital and Williams Grand Prix Engineering chairman Matthew Savage said they “fully respect the very tough decision of Claire and the Williams family to step away from the team and the business after securing new resources for its future.”

“Claire’s achievement in sustaining Williams Racing’s heritage, relevance and commitment to innovation in a difficult environment since taking charge in 2013 has been nothing short of monumental,” he said.

“She has also been hugely instrumental in shaping a more level technical and financial playing field for F1, which will help to ensure the team’s return to the front of the grid in seasons to come. We are proud to carry the Williams name into the next exciting phase for the sport and we thank Sir Frank, Claire and the Williams family for the opportunity to be part of this great British brand.”

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2020 Italian Grand Prix

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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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94 comments on “Claire Williams and Williams family to step aside from running team”

  1. Surprise!

  2. This was probably inevitable. Although she comes across as a genuinely nice individual, probably wan’t the right one for this job.

    1. Imagine having the pressure of this legacy resting on your shoulders. It took great courage to even try to continue it. Unfortunately it hasn’t worked out for her.

      1. As someone who was expected to take over his father’s business, I can only feel happy for Claire Williams. Being burdened with someone else’s “legacy”, rather than choosing your own path, must have been a heavy weight to lug around. Especially in the glare of public light.

        I am very happy that I could walk away, even if my father never really appreciated my choice. I congratulate her, and wish her all the best.

        1. Very interesting comments, Bo. Thank you for sharing something so personal.

    2. Claire was one of the most human person in Formula 1 over the last decades, maybe too emotional for the job.

      I have so much respect for the Williams family: Sir Francis Owen Garbett, Virginia, Jonathan, Jamie and Claire.

      Gonna rewatch « Grand Prix Heroes: Frank Williams » I won here few years ago.

    3. Without the cash to compete, she didn’t stand a chance.

      1. It feels like a death in the family

        I remember Frank at Long Beach in 1979. I watched him having a heated discussion with his crew while I was standing next to a group of Japanese reporters at their paddock in the Garage. In the middle of letting the team know something that was on his mind, he suddenly stopped as he noticed about a dozen five foot tall reporters and in the middle was me and I’m 6’8”. He just froze for a moment looking at us. I smiled and his discussion continued. I actually cracked up over this moment.
        But Williams gave us all a lot of special moments.
        Thanks for the memories

    4. I doubt she was the issue with the team.
      Mclaren had better financing and personnel yet they still hit rock bottom for several years.
      The issue Williams had was the many bad decisions made in previous years and then losing access to good sponsorship
      The past few years were just spent keeping the books steady in anticipation of a sale.
      Claire and Monisha did quite well with seriously struggling teams.

    5. From what I gather frank made a big mistake when they went with claire instead of jonathan. Jonathan was already a succesful team boss in a lower category (can’t find any info about him on the internet!?) and should have been the obvious choise to lead in f1. Whether that would have made any difference remains unknown but the williams during claire’s time survived only because of maldonado’s and stroll’s moneys. And claire’s role in that is meaningless. For those drivers williams was the only option. Claire only had the choise of taking their money or not. Being smart she took the money. Anybody would have.

      Writing this does put my opinion in slightly wrong light. I don’t really mean claire did as bad job as some think. I don’t think williams’ fall was claire’s fault. If anybody’s it was frank’s fault. He has been there all this time making decisions in the background and has held claire in very short leash. Giving her very little room to do anything big. Just like f1 was made great but eventually suffered because of bernie’s practices and deals, the same can be said about williams f1 team and frank. A great leader but totally past his peak. Only good thing about the sale is that at least williams is still in business. It could have been worse. It could have been bankcruptsy. Maybe we never know why claire was picked over jonathan. I really doubt that made a huge difference in the end though.

  3. So have the actual owners got a team to move straight in post Monza; or will we be left in the dark for a while longer?

    1. With the team principal stepping down, I would expect they have to tell everyone who is in charge of the team ideally this weekend, or at least before the next weekend.

  4. She would be a great Williams Advance Engineering CEO. She always manage to make Williams Racing profitable even in the worse time. She always came forward as the team leader even when she’s being barred from technical decision by her own father. Claire Williams deserved better.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, and that’s why it’s best for Williams Racing to continue without the Williams family. I hope the ultimate sale of Williams Racing doesn’t confuse anyone about the merits of the Williams legacy.

      1. So it was only the F1 team that was sold? WAE stays as a family-controlled public company?

        If that’s the case, you’ve got to give it to her, well done!

  5. Well, a bit more abrupt than expected, but I guess it is a natural conclusion of selling the team. I hope the new owners will duely present themselves during this weekend now as well as give their rough plan for the next steps to get back into the midfield mix in the next 2-3 years.

    I think Claire did a solid job, given the material and money at her disposal. But the construction with Frank the official team principal, Claire the de facto team principal as well as all the structures around that didn’t do the team favours in setting up a solid management team (see the trouble they’ve had finding the right match of engineering hobos to head development forward in recent years), apart from the lack of money holding them back.

    1. I think Claire did a solid job

      Based on what?? Did she get ANY decision correct?

      1. Most of her decisions were correct! If they weren’t Williams would have folded years ago.

    2. “But the construction with Frank the official team principal, Claire the de facto team principal as well as all the structures around that didn’t do the team favours in setting up a solid management team…”

      Agreed. Claire was placed in a hopeless position by being made “Deputy Team Principal”. This kind of management structure with two decision makers just never works. I’ve seen it fail more times than I can count. Frank should have stepped aside into an emeritus role a long time ago; his insights and experience were obviously a big asset to the team, but you have to have clarity as to who is in charge.

  6. I’m not sure Dorilton are the best owners for Williams, but this is a step in the right direction. She should have stepped down years ago.

    1. Im losing track on all this but aren’t Dorilton mixed up with the Eden Rock Group in this. And this is where all the various connections to motor racing and F1 lie. Given the few comments on this article I think a few of us must have missed this. (I know I did).

      1. Yes, it alludes to a Royal connection so I’m surprised the Daily Mail didn’t make it front page news.

        Or perhaps they could just be left alone to get on with it (as per Tetra Pak owners of Sauber)?

        There’s probably a slight bittersweet moment for Claire when she said the family always put the team first. I’m no Sigmund Freud, but it can’t have been easy growing up with the team expectations.

  7. So, they’re keeping the Williams name but removing the Williams family from the team? That seems a shame.

    1. Well, the Williams family has been the weakest link for ages now.

    2. A very sad day for F1. Not really much else to say.

    3. Same as McLaren.

      1. Same s as Ferrari
        (Although they still have a financial interest I think)
        Same as Sauber (when the name comes back)

        I guess Haas (of all teams) comes closest to a family financed and (somewhat) run team using its own name;)

        1. @coldfly
          Gianni Agnelli has been owning 50% of Ferrari since 1969 and it was agreed then that after Enzo’s death FIAT will take over another 40% of the company and the remaining 10% will go to Enzo’s son Piero Ferrari. Since the Elkanns are the eligible heirs of Gianni Agnelli after his son’s suspicious death (Edoardo Agnelli) who was critical of his father empire and its politics and was never going to inherit him but that’s another story, they still control the big peace of the cake with 32%, Piero Ferrari owns 10% of the company.

          1. @Tifosi: Eccentricity runs in the family, look at Lapo Elkann.

    4. On the name has value in case there is a need to resale

  8. Can only imagine the pressures Claire and her family have had to face the last few. Being a family run business is difficult. Maybe a good time to get out, they don’t need the money after the business sale anyway.

  9. I hope the Williams and Claire particularly find some happiness in their next endeavour. It seemed to me the last years took a toll on her. It’s sad to see the Williams leave but McLaren survived Bruce’s departure and two major buyouts so hopefully Williams the name will stay on strong.

  10. FINALLY!
    Value instantly doubled.
    Next: Russel out!

    1. It’s spelt ‘Russell’.

      1. OK – thanks!

      2. Thought it was spelt ‘Latifi’?

    2. AND Mazepin in
      The team should then be renamed to SOB racing team – Son of billionaires racing team.
      They’ll still be last.. but this time its not due to a lack of investment

      1. @todfod, I’ve been watching Mazepin race for 2 years now. He’s a pretty damn good driver.

    3. Is there a /ignore function on RaceFans? ….. if not is there a chance of having one please?

  11. An obvious move after selling the team. Too bad, in a way. Williams has been a great competitor for a long time, but it would be difficult for any family member to play second fiddle to a new owner

  12. If they were offered chance to continue but declined then I am shocked that as part of the takeover that Claire wasn’t obliged to stay on for a fixed period.

    Unless the new owners have a ready replacement or are desperate to get rid, the company taking over will normally stipulate that existing management stays for a certain length of time to facilitate a smooth transition and prevent them immediately jumping to a competitor. Unless of course the Williams family negotiated this out of the deal.

  13. Bernie is pulling the strings of the DC puppets. CW very nice but not a leader. So either lots of money invested or asset stripping in the next 12 months

  14. If Graeme Lowdon steps in then @dieterrencken was right on the money about the new owners…

    1. I’ve met Graham Lowdon. I used to teach his daughter.

      He is a top bloke, he sent a signed Bianchi hat into school for me (with his daughter) when he realised I was a fan!

  15. i have an idea. Gordon Ramsey as the new team principal! who’s with me?

    1. That would be really, really funny and it would make for a great show. I’m not sure the team would fare well though.

    2. Nah.
      It will be Dwayne Johnson.

      Because who knows F1 better, right?!

    3. If this is not the worst news after COVID.19, I don’t know what that could be!!!!

    4. +1 I can’t wait to watch Drive to survive on Netflix next season.

    5. @nickthegreek Brilliant idea but to really work Gordon would have to be sent in as ’emergency team principal for a week’ to sort out ailing teams and give the principals a rollicking. Imagine him at Ferrari, ‘great catering Mattia, but that engine wheeze you’ve been working with the customers, seriously?!’ Or post-collision team talks at Haas with Magnussen and Grosjean…

      1. hahahaha, i would love to see a confrontation between Steiner and Gordon Ramsey on Netflix. that would be 100% entertainment for sure

  16. What was the point in leaving if new owners offered them to stay?

    Stupid “pride”?
    Well, it is their decision

    1. Well, it’s possible the Williams’ were told they were out and the ‘offer to stay’ story is just good public relations and eases their exit….

      1. Has to be like that, hasn’t it..

  17. So long, and thanks for nothing claire.

  18. Private equity capitalists have only one thing in mind and that is return on investment over a certain timeline. While, that’s okay from a business perspective, for a team like Williams, which is on the lower end of the midfield, it only helps momentarily to keep the team running, but a difficult prospect in the long run unless results improve on a trajectory like that of Racing Point. So, this may not be the first time that the team’s ownership will change.

  19. I wish Claire had been a little more flexible in her approach and had tried to shake things up during her tenure especially the past 2-3 years. It was obvious that the Williams was in trouble and they needed a Racing Point type of approach where you stretch each dollar as far as it can go. They made the right call in their engine choice going with Mercedes and enjoyed great success in 2014 and 2015 ending in a remarkable 3rd spot in the WCC followed by a respectable 5th in 2016, 2017. However since 2017 they’ve not been able to solve the equation and have not delivered the performance that anyone would associate with Williams.

    1. @freelittlebirds she may have wanted to be more flexible, but was constantly undermined by Frank.

      Frank achieved great things, but was well past his prime and should’ve stepped aside and allowed Claire the freedom to do her job.

      1. But wasn’t the brother destined to take over? Think he had spent a lot of time with the team and was well respected. Then all of a sudden Clair was in the chair. No idea why, but if she wanted it it was up to her to deliver. She didn’t.

        1. It’s covered pretty well in the Williams documentary.

          Claire didn’t want the job, Jonathan did and was noticeably bitter about being left in charge of the heritage division, instead of getting the top job.

          The board essentially put her in position. It’s been a while since I last watched it but I”m pretty sure that was against Frank’s wishes. I sensed from the documentary that it was always an uncomfortable role for her, that she undertook out of some sort of sense of duty to the family name.

          1. Thanks for that. I’ll take a look at that.

  20. I doubt the decision was tough for Savage.

    1. I agree, they may have even “encouraged” the Williams family to relinquish control of the team.

  21. I’m genuinely sad about this. To me, the Williams name has always meant the Williams family, anachronistic as it seems in modern F1. To see the team name reduced to nothing more than another brand is a tough one to take.

  22. So ”business as usual” no more.

  23. This is the worst news this year after COVID.19!

  24. The day that the last glimmer of the old wonderful finally F1 flickered out.

  25. Next up, gut it, rob the coffers, and sell everything for scrap. That’s what these firms do.

    1. On the contrary, 2022 will bring opportunity with the new regs, and it sounds like the new company is digging in for the long haul.

  26. Her brother is the Williams archivist. I wonder if that team history part will stay in the family.

  27. They sold the brand name. I fear the team will be sold or dissolved, the brand will be reattached to something else and the heritage traded upon outside of F1…..with absolute cynicism.

  28. It says the Williams family are leaving but what’s happening to Jonny?

    1. I can’t see any sense in him leaving his role at Williams heritage.

  29. Still one great un-solved mystery: that Maldonado win. Their only victory in fifteen years.
    It’s time to send in Columbo and Poirot, and maybe even Sherlock Holmes, while the clues are still there.

    1. I know – of all the drivers in the paddock, he was the one that managed to score a win for them!

  30. The last of the garagistas is gone. I’ll doff my cap to the Family and the people that have helped Williams win GPs, champions and stay on the grid as the sport changed before ours & their eyes. I think Sir Frank and the family were in a very tough position, if they’d sold to BMW, the company could’ve left the sport like it did in 09. I just hope Dorliton’s motives are for Williams, its employees and its history. Well played Sir Frank & family, it was a hell of an innings

  31. I’m disappointed that we’re robbed of an opportunity to see if Claire actually had the ability to turn the team around without Frank undermining her. Now we will never know.

    Hopefully now there’s a massive management shakeup and the team can finally, properly, rebuild.

  32. Holy smokes. This is a moment for the history books. Being that Claire was so bullish about her tenure in the past, and the Williams legacy, it is kind of a surprise, but reading thru the thin veil it was seemingly inevitable, in some capacity.

  33. I’m willing to bet Frank is having health concerns and the family want to spend time with him before his inevitable passing.

    Obviously I hope he’s in good health, but I wouldn’t be surprised given his age

  34. After they got rid of Paddy Lowe. I honestly expected the team with Mercedes engines to be by now a little more closer to the front of the grid….and its no surprise she is stepping down after the weekend…but she gave it a go.
    As for the future of Williams, people keep making a connection with Bernie, and they may be right, but I can guarantee Bernie will know exactly what is going on now and what will happen next

  35. All indications are that this should be a step in the right direction. I definitely appreciate the fact that Dorilton Capital is keeping the name, instead of renaming it after one of their investments…Island Abbey Foods Racing, anyone?

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised if Williams goes the same way as Sauber did, the name will stay for a few years and then fade away having been slowly phased out. Time will tell.

      1. Or it could go the McLaren way…

  36. Even if this seems as step forward in the good direction, it really makes me sad to learn that the only “family-run” team is no more. To my knowledge, there are very few sports discipline and very few team that are family owned and even less that achieved success like Williams did, despite having struggled for more than a decade now.

    With Sauber now gone too, it feels like we’re leaving an era.

    I wonder what will become of the team in the long term. The name remains but for how long ?

    1. Gene Haas is still the sole owner of Haas. not sure if that qualifies as “family-owned”, but it’s not the end of an era

  37. I’ve supported Williams since I started watching F1 in the spring of 1992. I continued to support them through thick and thin because they were a family run team founded by two engineers, both of which were still involved. Being an engineer I liked that. Now they are yet another faceless corporate entity and I don’t know who owns it. The reason I supported them all of these years is now gone and sadly so is my enthusiasm for them. Time to pick a new team to support I guess.

  38. Lots of respect for Frank’s achievements in the past, but with all do respect it has been time for them to move along for quite a while. The team has been woefully mismanaged for two decades. For a considerable amount of that time they had the most powerful engines (BMW, Mercedes) and still could not consistently compete. Joke of a team in recent years with an unhealthy and stifling addiction to nostalgia rather than adopting modern practices.

  39. I don’t see the point in keeping the Williams name but unceremoniously dumping all the Williams people at the first opportunity. That’s just 101% cynical.

    I’d almost rather they called it something else, had the strength of courage to do their own branding rather than try and pass themselves off as something else. And then we could all mourn the passing of a great race team/brand but at least accept it had a clearly defined end point, and see what the new folk can do independently.

    1. i don’t think they’ll dump all the Williams people. just Claire & Frank.
      makes sense. they paid for that privillege, wouldn’t you do the same if you bought the team?

  40. At the time, who would have thought that Pastor Maldonado would would be the last driver to win a race for Williams…

    It’s not just the loss of the Williams but the loss of an independent team and the loss of what those teams have meant in the history of F1.

  41. Can only imagine the pressures Claire and her family have had to face the last few . Being a family run business is difficult. Maybe a good time to get out, they don’t need the money after the business sale anyway .

  42. Would have much rather they gone to Formula E or even Indy instead of existing at any cost in F1.

    Both series would have welcomed them warmly and treated them with the respect they deserve.

  43. Goodbye then Williams.
    You have carved an impressive chapter into the history books of F1.
    I hope the new owners soon grow that which is required to use their own name instead of hoping to cash in on your legacy.

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