This was the decline of Williams: from dominating Formula 1 to not having money for spare parts

At 77, Frank Williams no longer attended the races and at that point he left everything in the hands of his daughter.

What must have been thinking Sir Frank Williams in his last days to see the sad present of his team? The historic team-manager passed away this Sunday and has been away from racing for years. He then left the driving to his daughter Claire, before selling his team to an investment group in 2020, the iconic Formula 1 team went from glory to decline. It is one of the most difficult teams economically and in recent seasons it has survived in the highest category, far from those days when it was unbeatable and had the best drivers.

It is about the team born in 1977 and that in the commercial sphere has always set a trend or knew how to look for alternatives in non-conventional markets to motor racing. In its early years its white cars and Arab sponsors are remembered. They came to have advertising on their pontoons for Baroon Bin Laden, the company of Osama Bin Laden’s father. His older brother, Salem, managed the contribution since he was an investor and lived in England. According to the magazine El Gráfico on September 11, 1979 (yes, another 9/11), Saudia Airlines contributed $ 835,000; Albilad, 300,000; Dallah, 200,000 and TAG, 400,000. Bin Laden would have put between $ 50,000 and $ 100,000. The firm was the builder of all roads and highways in the Saudi kingdom. No one from the Bin Laden family ever attended an F1 race. But his support was key to the existence of the English team that 40 years ago achieved the first of its 114 victories at the hand of the Swiss Clay regazzoni at Silverstone, at the British GP.

In 1980 he obtained his first Drivers and Constructors titles thanks to Australian Alan Jones. They could have repeated in 1981 with the Argentine Carlos Alberto Reutemann in the drivers’ contest, but Lole did not have an optimal mechanical half in the second half of the season and lost the crown by one point at the hands of the Brazilian Nelson Piquet (Brabham). But Williams had already earned his place and was one of the strongest teams he won overall. 7 Drivers ‘titles, 9 Constructors’ titles (second behind Ferrari with 16), In addition, he achieved 114 wins, 313 podiums, 128 pole positions and 133 lap records.

Team Williams was also one of the forerunners of super professionalism in F1. To the aforementioned Jones and Reutemann, he had pilots who were champions in this team such as the Finn Keke Rosberg (1982), Piquet himself (1987), Englishman Nigel Mansell (1992), Frenchman Alain Prost (1993), Englishman Damon Hill (1996) and Canadian Jacques Villeneuve (1997), his last champion. Several of their cars were referenced as the 1992 FW 14B with active suspension (revolutionary at that time), which allowed control on each wheel and greater adherence to the ground. He won 10 of the 16 races. Those were times of his partnership with Renault in the provision of engines. It was the squad chosen by Prost to capture his fourth title and by Brazilian Ayrton Senna to do the same in 1994 …

Williams F1
Claire Williams, the heir, who was left in charge of the team after her father’s retirement and then had to sell the team (Bearne / XPB Images)

But beyond their laurels the British team continued to have a good business sense. In 2000, before tobacco companies were banned as sponsors, they went to look for other items such as insurance (Allianz), IT (Compaq and HP), beer (Budweiser), banks (Royal Bank of Scotland) and oil companies (PDVSA), which allowed the entry of Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan (he is racing in the USA today) won the 2012 Spanish GP and gave Williams the last victory. Since 2014 he has not achieved a pole with the Brazilian Felipe Massa in the Canadian GP and since 2017 he has not achieved a podium with the Canadian Lance Stroll in the Azerbaijan GP.

What were the reasons for its downfall? In July 2013 Claire Williams took over as deputy chief, but kept her responsibility in the commercial area. He grabbed a hot iron. Although he benched the stop and had a good management in his first seasons, achieving third place in Constructors in 2014 and 2015. They lost two places in 2016 and 2017. Although they hit rock bottom in 2018 when they had to recruit two rookies to inject capital: Russian Sergey Sirotkin with 15 million euros and Stroll himself, whose father Lawrence (investor) contributed about 72 million euros. Beyond this financial aid, for the first time in its history, the British team was last (10th).

And the problems did not end. At the end of 2018 they lost their main sponsor, Martini, who delivered an annual budget of 11 million euros. The Strolls left as they bought part of the defunct Force India, now called Race Point. The economic blow was strong and even due to lack of elements in 2019, two test days were lost in the preseason. As if that were not enough, on the second date of that championship run in Bahrain, its riders were asked not to step on the pianos because in case of breakages they did not have spare parts for their cars … Although Williams has had the Mercedes engine since 2014, as of 2018 the performance drop was notable. The meager budget to test elements prevented them from doing the necessary development and that is why their cars are not performing.

The outlook is delicate. However, there was self-criticism from Frank’s daughter before selling the equipment. “The structure of the team changed during Williams’s four good years. It was my decision and therefore my fault. We wanted to keep the good results or even improve them, so I changed something about the internal structure that turned out to be a mistake. We know where we stand and what we have to do to get back to the front, but that is a tedious process, “Claire said in statements to Speedweek. She knew the issue was serious. That’s why in Bahrain 2019 rejoined the historic Patrick Head (head coach since the team’s inception) after eight years. The English engineer was 72 years old at the time and his summons seemed like a drowning slap.

Williams F1
Clay Regazzoni’s car with the advertisement for Bin Laden, Osama’s father. The image is from 1979

There are two Argentine engineers who got to know Williams’ kitchen because they worked there together. In dialogue with Infobae gave their impression on the subject. “There is a book by the author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, ‘The Black Swan’, where he describes situations like the one Williams is going through at the moment and attributes it to what he expresses as ‘epistemic arrogance’ of the human race and which means excessive pride in what refers to the limits of our knowledge. I think Williams as an organization fell into that trap and forgot what to do to win races. It’s sad, I was there in one of its highest moments, when we made the FW11 Honda. At that time there was great knowledge and modesty, that as Fangio said ‘you always have to try to be the best, but never believe yourself the best’. You can go out? It is possible, but motorsports and F1 in particular need money to develop and Williams has been losing money and sponsors in recent years and I don’t think he has the financial muscle (as McLaren has for example) to change direction and avoid crash into the iceberg, as happened to the Titanic, “he says. Sergio rinland, who worked there in 1986. More succinct was Enrique Scalabroni. “What happens with Williams is the result of the lack of Patrick Head for so many years without being competitive and now it will cost them a little to get back to the top, but with Patrick’s return, it will be something that will change in the coming years,” says who He joined the English team in 1986 and 1987.

While Villeneuve himself was tough on his former team. “What happens is that they have not sought to be an F1 team. Now it’s public and you can buy part of Williams and it’s listed. In other words, there are some people who should be given figures at the end of the year. The Williamses have made money, which means they could have invested a lot in their team. They could go faster if they wanted, so it’s their fault, “he said in a chat with the site. I am motor.

At 77 Sir Frank Williams stopped attending all races. Although he continued to be aware of the details of his team. The situation was already delicate and her daughter Claire could do little against squads that doubled or tripled her annual budget. Without a great economic impact for the agony of his decline it seemed indeclinable and many wondered and it was the end of the last family F1 team.

That happened in May 2020 in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the most powerful teams hard and the weakest ones were knocked out. That is why in August of last year, without any alternative, the historic team was sold to the US investment fund Dorilton Capital..

George Russell brought Williams back joy with his podium this year in Belgium (REUTERS / Andrej Isakovic)
George Russell brought Williams back joy with his podium this year in Belgium (REUTERS / Andrej Isakovic) (ANDREJ ISAKOVIC /)

Your star pilot, George Russell, managed this year to cut a streak of four years without podiums being second in Belgium. It was an 83-race drought without one of his cars finishing in the top three since Lance Stroll’s third-place finish at Azerbaijan 2017. However, in 2022 they will lose Russell, who is a Mercedes staff rider, who confirmed his arrival in place of Valtteri Bottas.

While the Canadian Nicholas latifi He could do little against a teammate who was always superior like Russell, called to be one of the figures and possible world champion in the future.

Without the presence of anyone from the Williams family, the historic Grove team lives a present far removed from those days when they were lord and master. Si Frank said goodbye by looking at the team he founded in eighth place in the World Constructors’ Championship out of ten participants.


Commotion in Formula 1: Frank Williams, the creator of one of the most iconic teams, has died

40 years after the day Reutemann lost the Formula 1 title: what happened to the car