Eccentric Capito leaves a Williams team divided. Is it 2 years overdue?


Jost Capito's departure from Williams suggests it's looking for a reset after two years of quirky management that alienated much of the F1 team, writes Chris Medland

Jost Capito walks along the F1 pitlane

Williams team discord was no secret under Jost Capito's reign

Jure Makovic/AFP via Getty Images

Sometimes, announcements come out of the blue and really catch you by surprise. The first reports of Mattia Binotto’s departure from Ferrari were like that, as it didn’t really seem like there was huge unrest in terms of working for the team principal, even if the Scuderia’s performances weren’t always up to scratch this year.

Similarly, Fred Vasseur’s linking with the role was unexpected at the time (although his confirmation this week as Binotto’s replacement ended up being touted publicly) and the knock-on move for Andreas Seidl even more so.

Jost Capito “stepping aside” at Williams was less surprising, but also had been less openly discussed as being on the cards. It’s not that I can claim to know it was coming, but there had been plenty of signs that all was not well at Grove.

Some of those signs just seemed funny, and a somewhat eccentric approach to management that might well have worked in the right environment. It was hard not to laugh when told that Capito insisted a race weekend meeting in the garage each Friday morning would end with him repeating “Let’s go…” for the team to reply: “Racing!”.

Except, by the fourth round of this season, I got to see what happened when that team reply didn’t come…

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It wasn’t intentional. Imola was a mud bath after heavy rain ruined the grass car parks and saw plenty of jams getting in and out of the circuit during the weekend. One such slow entry on Friday meant a number of Williams team members were not yet at the track ready to join the pep talk, and so Capito was left in a bad mood because he felt the team wasn’t taking it seriously.

It wasn’t, but that wasn’t the reason many of them weren’t present.

Anyway, I had an interview lined up with Capito that very same morning and duly waited in the motorhome for what was becoming an increasingly delayed slot. I was warned by one team member about his mood at the time so that I was prepared in case it was a tricky interview, and we kept talking to fill the gap.

A clearly unhappy Capito came downstairs at this point, took one look at the conversation, said something to his assistant and disappeared again. I was then informed the interview was off because myself and the team member who had arranged the interview had been talking and that meant we were not ready for him.

It was rescheduled and I thought little of it, even if I knew differently when Capito himself said at the later date that it was due to a phone call that he had to take.

Williams team photo at 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Let’s go racing! Capito’s approach to pep talks wasn’t taken seriously


To me it was just a slightly bizarre incident, for the team it was one of many. Just one race later in Miami, Capito interrupted the engineering debrief after a poor qualifying to rescind the race team’s invitation to a Sunday night party that its owner, Dorilton Capital, was putting on for the team. The next day, Alex Albon finished ninth, and Capito backtracked stating he’d threatened they couldn’t attend if they didn’t score points.

From the archive

When very few people from the race team showed up to the party, Dorilton — made aware of the reason why — was not impressed with how the team principal had handled matters.

By that point, Capito had alienated a portion of the Williams employees already since being appointed team CEO in 2020 and principal last year. Having brought in his former Volkswagen technical director Francois-Xavier (FX) Demaison, he removed engineering director Adam Carter last January much to the surprise and dissent of some members of the existing engineering team.

Removing the Senna ’S’ logo from the car without informing the Senna Foundation, or going against Dorilton’s wishes by taking Frank Williams’ name off a door in the motorhome similarly didn’t endear Capito to a number of those working for him.

But had he completely Jost the plot? Maybe not.

“The resistance to change was incredible … If people think Jost is Williams’ problem they haven’t a clue.”

There were those unhappy at the way he recruited a number of personnel he’d previously worked with who weren’t deemed up to scratch – Demaison’s departure given as a prime example, following the recent exit of CMO Claudia Schwarz – but he also had his backers. And much in the way that I’d argue Vasseur is not going to change Ferrari’s fortunes overnight because it’s the work of the hundreds of people below him that really influences performance, Capito was just the leader of a team that had a long road to follow to return to regular competitiveness.

“Yeah he’s a bit quirky, but his vision was right,” another source who worked under under Capito at Williams said after news of his departure. “The resistance he got to any change was incredible … If people think Jost is the problem at Williams they haven’t a clue.”

Capito was trying to turn around a team that had picked up a total of just eight points in the three years before his arrival combined. Even under a cost cap and with significant investment from Dorilton, there was a long way to go. And track execution at times was impressive, as 23 points and eighth overall despite a still uncompetitive car last year attests.

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It could be argued that this year was more competitive, too. In a season where all of the other nine teams scored a top-six finish, Williams still managed five point-scoring rounds. Despite that backdrop, there were still those within the team who feel “the news [of Capito and Demaison leaving] is two years overdue”.

What that highlights is a divided team, and without full backing for the leadership and everyone pulling in the same direction then it was never going to work. In that case, a change is usually in everyone’s best interests.

But unlike Ferrari — a team that feels 95% of the way there with the hope that Vasseur can continue recent progress and make the final step — this is a reset for Williams.

The departure of Demaison suggests this is more a clearing of the house, with key personnel that Capito surrounded himself with being shown the door at the same time as the CEO and team principal. And rarely can it be a good sign for a technical director to be leaving just a few weeks after the end of one season, with full focus on car build and upgrade schedules for the new chassis.

There’s a long way for Williams to get back to where it wants to be, and it’ll be someone else’s task to map out how it tries to get there, but their most important job could well be uniting the team to follow whatever path they choose.