The end of an F1 era: Williams Racing puts legendary team up for sale

The end of an F1 era: Williams Racing puts legendary team up for sale after 2019 figures reveal a loss of £13m… but the family want the name to stay should ownership change hands

  • F1 legends Williams Racing say they are putting themselves up for sale
  • 78-year-old Frank Williams founded the team back in 1977 with Sir Patrick Head
  • Frank’s daughter, Claire, says the family wants the Williams team name to stay 
  • 2019 figures revealed a significant loss of £13million for Williams Racing

In bright Oxfordshire sunlight on Friday, Sir Frank Williams sat in his wheelchair outside the building that carries his name. 

A few hours earlier, his eponymous team — legends of Formula One — had put themselves up for sale.

After 16 world championship titles and 114 race wins, the Williams name could be lost to the sport. 

Williams Racing announced this week that they are putting themselves up for sale

There is no certainty of that, mind. It depends on the scale and intentions of those who step forward to invest in the 670-strong team.

One consortium — comprising mostly foreign money — on Friday told Sportsmail that if they go forward with a bid they would likely stick with ‘Williams’ for its heritage value.

This group, we can reveal, was one of two, and perhaps three, parties who enquired about a buy-out at the end of last year.

They had insisted on Claire Williams, 43-year-old daughter of 78-year-old Frank and de facto boss while her father remains team principal in name and repute, moving upstairs to allow in a new executive team. That stipulation was rejected.

Now nothing is off the table in the shaping of the future of the Grove-based organisation.

Williams defacto boss Claire Williams (pictured) says the family want the Williams name to stay

‘It is too early to say what the team might be called,’ Claire said. 

‘The Williams family would certainly always like to have its name in Formula One. 

We see this as a great opportunity to race competitively for years to come.

‘Frank has always put the team and the people who work here first, and that is the case here. We want to move forward without making any job cuts.’

Frank Williams founded the team in 1977, with Patrick Head, now Sir Patrick. Frank still lives in the factory, in a private wing, and is the only ‘active’ participant among the larger-than-life giants who forged modern Formula One: Bernie Ecclestone, Max Mosley, Ron Dennis and Luca di Montezemolo.

Frank is generally recognised as the world’s longest-living tetraplegic, a result of a road accident in France in 1986.

Beating the financial odds that once led him to make calls from a phone box because his line had been cut off, Williams lit up the sport in the Eighties and Nineties with world champions Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve. 

But the last few years for the quintessential English team have been lean, money hard to come by.

Williams founder Frank Williams (pictured) resisted temptations to sell – until Friday

Frank — who hangs a picture of Margaret Thatcher in his office — always resisted calls to sell, until Friday.

They issued a statement saying: ‘The board is undertaking a review of all the various strategic options available. 

Options being considered include, but are not limited to, raising new capital for the business, a divestment of a minority stake, or a divestment of a majority stake including a potential sale of the whole company.

‘While no decisions have been made regarding the optimal outcome yet, to facilitate discussions with interested parties, the company announces the commencement of a formal sale process.’

They also announced they have terminated their relationship with title sponsors Rokit, a telecommunications company.

The family say the plan was always to sell but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the news

The coronavirus pandemic, and its devastating impact on all teams, accelerated the news, though Claire insists this is not the only reason for the new tack, citing a ‘number of factors’.

Indeed, 2019 figures revealed a loss of £13million compared to a profit of £12.9m the year before.

Last season was their annus horribilis, with the car at the back of the grid, a disappointment to George Russell, the rookie they gave a chance to as part of their long-term nurturing of British talent.

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