Williams Martini Racing deputy team principal Claire Williams feels that “financial restraints” need to be put in place in Formula 1 to protect the future of the sport.
Speaking on the second day of testing in Barcelona Williams, an outspoken proponent of budget caps, said that cost-related measures are the only way to ensure a more competitive grid, and should be considered quickly.
“I think the fans of our sport want to see a much more competitive grid. And that can only be the outcome of a more financially balanced sport.
“That’s everybody’s responsibility around the table. In order to do that we believe that financial restraints have to come into play for 2021 and beyond.”
Competitiveness has been hard to come by in Formula 1 since the introduction of the v6, hybrid engines. Four different Constructors won races in 2013 – the last pre-hybrid season – whilst the wins of the last four seasons have been shared between just three teams – Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, Scuderia Ferrari and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.
Williams have taken just one win since 2004, when unlikely race-winner Pastor Maldonado held off a hard-charging Fernando Alonso at the Spaniard’s home track in 2012. Though they’ve had three drivers (Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll) reach the top three for a total of fifteen podiums since that win, they’ve struggled to find form, finishing in fifth in the Contractors’ Championship for the last two years running.
Williams refrained from saying who should be at the helm of introducing these restraints, instead suggesting that the teams should put aside any politics and protect the sport over themselves.
“I’m pleased I’m not in charge, but I’m sure that everybody has what’s best for the sport at heart and not individual gain and benefit.
“As people are working together then does it matter if it’s the FIA or Liberty’s responsibility?
“I think it’s everybody’s responsibility to come to the table and to talk about the future of the sport.
“It’s difficult. This sport is very political as everybody knows. We are all here to protect our teams, but we all must remember as well that we are here to protect our sport as well.”
Williams is one of the few independent teams on the grid, operating solely as a racing team. This means that, unlike teams like Ferrari and Mercedes, they have no way of bringing in additional money from, say, road car sales. This only furthers the budget gap between the larger and smaller teams, and creates an unsustainable trend for the future, says Williams.
“I’ve always said that spending £300 million a year just to get two race cars to the grid is a scary amount of money. And it’s not sustainable for our future. It’s certainly not sustainable for independent teams like ours.
“These engines are important. They are hybrid technology which is important for the sport to be using.
“If we were able to come up with a situation whereby we were still able to talk to the environmental issues but to be financially conscious, I think that would be a positive outcome. And one that the sport needs.”
Far from being a concept favoured by Williams, who were the fifth-fastest constructor in the first week of pre-season testing, they are being considered more widely. Ex McLaren F1 Team boss Martin Whitmarsh accepted a temporary position last year, “in order to support it in defining financial regulations for fair and sustainable competition in the FIA F1 world championship.”