It’s a momentous day in the history of the Williams Racing Formula 1 Team, as £13 million losses in 2019 followed by cessation of the 2020 Grand Prix season as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic have left the Williams family – previously staunchly against surrendering their team and their legacy under any circumstances – in a position where they must consider all options to ensure the future of the team, including selling up, lock stock and barrel.
In a statement, the Williams Team said: “The WGPH (Williams Grand Prix Holdings) board is undertaking a review of all the various strategic options available to the Company.”
“Options being considered include, but are not limited to, raising new capital for the business, a divestment of a minority stake in WGPH, or a divestment of a majority stake in WGPH including a potential sale of the whole Company.”
“Whilst 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.'”
The news came this morning with the announcement that Williams and ROKiT were terminating their title sponsorship deal. This looks likely to have been at the request of ROKiT, since no races means no exposure for their brands, and in the absence of the vital funding this deal brought the ailing team, other financing opportunities needed to be found.
Alternatively, Williams may already have an investor/buyer that hinges on there being no existing title sponsorship deal (think Red Bull or similar) which may have precipitated the team bringing a premature end to the deal.
Although it’s claimed that no sale has as of yet been agreed, in Michael Latifi – billionaire father of its #2 driver Nicholas Latifi who already has significant investment in the team – Williams have a ready made buyer should it be necessary.
It would be a terribly sad day for the team and for Formula 1 if this was the beginning of the end for the Williams name in Formula 1.
Worst case scenario if could even be the end of the team, leaving Formula 1 with just nine competitors, with more seemingly on the brink.
Perhaps then, the teams who argued against a serious budget cap might realise the selfishness of their actions, and how damaging it’s been to the sport as a whole.
But in the interests of fairness, let’s not forget that Williams’ form of late has contributed to its perilous position.
And just as the team appeared to have steadied the ship, ready to edge towards the security of a significant levelling of the playing field with a reform in F1’s sporting and financial regulations in 2021, along came the Coronavirus to deal it a hammer blow.
While worst case scenario is curtains for Williams, there is still hope. The softening of the Williams Group’s attitude towards significant investment could not only bring serious cash, but also a new impetus that drives the team forward without Sir Frank having to lose complete control.
These are trying times for Formula 1, fingers crossed we all come out the other end intact.