One of the biggest stories of 2020 in the world of Formula 1 was the Williams family selling the team that bears its name on to its new owners in Dorilton Capital. It was a massively shocking decision, especially since the Williams family, and Claire Williams in particular, had been vocal about wanting to do anything but sell up.
She has recently opened up on the reasons why she decided that selling the team on would have been a better idea. Whilst it may have seemed at the time like a purely financial decision, Claire Williams revealed that there were more personal reasons involved with the decision to let the team that had once been the centre of her family’s life go.
When the pandemic rocked the world, combined with Williams’s already incredibly hefty thirteen-million pound loss in 2019 and the strategic review that followed, it really looked like it could have been the end of the line.
“When corona hit there was the bigger picture to think about, how we were going to go racing again and keep our business afloat during lockdown,” Williams said in an interview with the New York Times. “It was like, ‘Right, we’re really scraping about here on what we’ve got.’
“Then the decision came that we had to seek investment or sell. We didn’t have a choice. We’d literally done everything.”
With the only realistic option left being to sell or seek a major buyout from an external investor, Williams became focused on three major ‘elements’ that she felt needed to come out of that.
“The first was saving the team… When I say saving the team, I mean ensuring the people had the security of their job, that the team existed or survived for their benefit,” she explained when talking about how she planned to make sure the Williams team would keep going.
“I also wanted to make sure my dad came out of it with money to show for his work, not that he would have cared. My dad’s never taken a penny out of the team over the years. I wanted to ensure he had something to show for his legacy. That was really important to me as well.
“I felt that quite keenly considering the position the team had been in for many years… I didn’t think it was right just to keep going so the Williams family stayed in the sport. That would have culminated in the team going into administration and just coming away with nothing.“
Dorilton Capital “the right fit for Williams and for the people”
When it came to the third aspect of making sure that Williams survived, Williams wanted to find new owners or new investors who cared just as much about the team as her and her father did. This is where the choice to sell the team to Dorilton Capital came in with its promises to protect Williams’ heritage as well as keep the team based at Grove.
“They’ve got deep pockets,” she said about Dorilton Capital. “I was fed up with the team, and all the people in it, scrabbling around not being able to do their job properly because we didn’t have the money to allow them to do it… For many years, I always found that quite deeply frustrating and upsetting.
I knew Dorliton were willing to put money into the team in order to take the team back to the front of the grid. I could sense a real passion to do that, very similar to our family’s passion.
“They had a huge amount of respect for the heritage and the legacy of Williams, a huge respect for what my dad’s achieved, and they didn’t want to rip that up. They wanted to build around that, and why they wanted to keep the name is important to me. I just felt that they were the right fit for Williams and for the people.“
Williams will be retaining its driver line-up of George Russell and Nicholas Latifi for the 2021 season. The team will be taking on an increased partnership with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team from 2022, which will see it using Mercedes gearboxes and hydraulic systems as well as their power units.