The Williams name could be the latest in a long line of famous British marques to fall off the Formula 1 grid.
Since its formation as Williams Grand Prix Engineering, the team has been under the control and ownership of Sir Frank Williams, who has always insisted that he would remain at the wheel of the company.
But recent times have been hard for Williams. Frank Williams has stepped back from the daily running of the organisation, and the team has slumped to last in the constructors’ standings in each of the last two seasons. The results last season led the company to register a £13m loss. With the expected impact of COVID-19 also looming, Williams is investigating “strategic options” including either selling a stake, or handing over Williams in its entirety to a new owner. The latter option would risk the team being rebranded, and the Williams name fading into history, having won nine constructors’ titles and seven drivers’ crowns since 1977.
Some names have been linked to a deal, including Michael Latifi – the billionaire father of Williams’ new signing Nicholas Latifi. Williams’ title sponsorship deal with mobile firm ROKiT has also been ended.
Claire Williams said any sale would be done in the best interests of Williams: “I’ve been getting so many emails almost of condolence from people, and I get that, and it’s much appreciated, but I’m looking at this from a really positive perspective.”
Williams is hopeful of securing a deal in the next few months, and its plans to contest the 2020 F1 season remain unaffected.
Should the Williams name be lost, it would follow other British names such as Tyrrell, Lotus, BRM, BAR, Hesketh and Jaguar out of the grand prix door.
Of the most prominent three, Tyrrell ran as a team in F1 from 1968 (from ’70 as a constructor) until it folded in ’98, and was sold to become British American Racing, albeit BAR used different premises, chassis builder and engine. That later morphed into BAR-Honda, Brawn GP and then Mercedes. Lotus has had three stints in F1, under either British or Malaysian ownership. Its first ran from 1958 to 1994, before Tony Fernandes’ ‘Team Lotus’ arose in 2010. That licence was terminated after two years, while Enstone briefly used the moniker.
BRM was a force in F1 from 1956 but made its debut in ’51. Despite racking up 197 grands prix, and 17 wins, BRM only managed to win a single drivers’ and constructors’ title – courtesy of Graham Hill in 1962. The
team folded in ’77.