Williams sale process not a sign of desperation

Claire Williams has said the team triggering a formal sale process is not a sign of desperation and is the “right and prudent” thing to do.

Williams Grand Prix Holdings Ltd has announced on Friday the commencement of a formal sale process which could include the sale of the whole company.

But Claire Williams wanted to ease any immediate fears about the team’s future in the sport and said it was the right move to help protect the team and its staff.

“It’s obviously very early days and all options are available to us,” Williams said, as quoted by RaceFans.net.

“Whether that be purely a capital investment or a divestment of a minority or majority stake or a full sale of the company, all options at this very early stage in the process are open to us and we aren’t ruling anything out.

“I think that it’s the right and prudent thing to do.

Williams as a family have always put our Formula 1 team first.

“I feel very much that seeking inward investment at this juncture is absolutely in line with that philosophy that we’ve always had: To protect our teams each year to protect the people that work for us.”

Claire Williams also challenged the viewpoint that the team had been in long-term decline, resulting in the decision to welcome investment offers from interested parties.

“We’ve had two bad years,” she added.

“Any team can have two bad years and it’s what you do as a result of those two bad years and learn from your mistakes and pull yourself up.

“That’s the work that we’ve been doing over the past year and into this year.

“Unfortunately because we couldn’t go racing this year, we couldn’t show people that we’ve made progress.

“Obviously prior to those two years we’d had some quite considerable success in ’14 and ’15, finishing third and third and then ’16 and ’17 finishing fifth and fifth.

“So I think to say that Williams has been in a long term spiral of decline is probably slightly exaggerated or erroneous.”

Claire Williams is also hopeful that any potential investor would recognise the strength in keeping the Williams name in Formula 1.

She said: “The Williams brand I think is loved by sports teams, sports fans, both in and out of Formula 1. I think it stands for something and I’m sure any investor would recognise that.

“But that would be a conversation for a later point.”

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Claire Williams: Team sale 'to ensure its future success'

Claire Williams says the sale of Williams’ F1 team is being contemplated to ensure the Grove-based outfit’s continued presence in Grand Prix racing.

On the back of depressed financial results for 2019 compounded by F1’s current crisis linked to the coronavirus pandemic, Williams announced on Friday that it was conducting a strategic review of its business, and considering a sale of Williams Grand Prix.

Founded over four decades ago by Sir Frank Williams, F1’s third most successful team behind Ferrari and McLaren has held on to its family ownership through thick and thin over the years.

But current economic headwinds are proving hard to counter for Sir Frank, although the 78-year-old racer is no longer involved with the day-to-day running of the company.

“Frank has always ensured he puts the team, business and our people first, and that’s what we’re doing now,” Claire Williams told selected members of the media on a Zoom call on Friday.

“Frank is always aware of and up to speed with every decision the board takes and is supportive.

“I feel very much that seeking inward investment at this juncture is absolutely in line with that philosophy we’ve always had — to protect our team’s future, to protect the people that work for us.”

Williams added that the company aimed to complete its review process “within the next three to four months”, insisting the group was “fully funded throughout the remainder of this year”.

Putting a value on the Williams F1 team for a potential acquirer is likely to be determined in part by the team’s most recent period of under-performance which began in earnest in 2018.

Williams’ FW43 showed glimpses of progress in pre-season testing but only a return to racing will offer a real opportunity to measure just how much the British outfit has evolved.

However, Claire Williams refuted the often expressed view among pundits that the team was locked in a spiraling decline.

“We’ve had two bad years,” she said. “Any team can have two bad years and it’s what you do as a result of those two bad years and learn from your mistakes and pull yourself up. That’s the work that we’ve been doing over the past year and into this year.

“Unfortunately because we couldn’t go racing this year, we couldn’t show people that we’ve made progress.

“Obviously prior to those two years we’d had some quite considerable success in ’14 and ’15, finishing third and third and then ’16 and ’17 finishing fifth and fifth.

“So I think to say that Williams has been in a long term spiral of decline is probably slightly exaggerated or erroneous.”

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Williams to revamp FW43 livery following ROKiT exit

Williams will reveal a new livery for its FW43 ahead of the start of the 2020 season following the termination of its sponsorship contract with ROKiT.

Williams announced on Friday the end of its commercial partnership with the telecommunications company with immediate effect although no reason was given for the unexpected split.

“I can’t go into detail on the ins and outs,” said deputy team principal Claire Williams. “What I can say is that we met all of our contractual obligations to ROKiT.”

Williams is expected to revert to a predominately white and dark blue color scheme when the season gets underway in Austria in early July.

“Obviously the livery is something that we’ve got to look at when we go racing again, hopefully in July,” she said.

“F1 has put a marker in the sand for the sixth of July. We will unveil our new livery before we hit the race track.”

Williams also disclosed on Friday that the company was conducting a strategic review with its financial advisors that could lead to the sale of its F1 operations.

However, in the near term, Claire Williams is confident the Grove-based outfit will secure a new title sponsor for the remainder of the year, with the outfit relying particularly on its relationship with sports and entertainment agency 1920 Worldwide.

“We very much feel that we look after our partners in a fantastic way,” she said. “There’s been plenty of evidence of that over the years, with many of Williams’ partners remaining with the team in the long term.

“We have also just put in place, over the past three months, a whole new process around our commercial proposition.

“We’re working with a new agency, and we’re very much redeveloping the way in which we go and take Williams to market, and we have huge confidence in that.

“Williams has always done a good job of attracting new partners into our sport, into our team and I believe and have every confidence that we will continue to do so.

“This is a great brand. It is a great team. And we’re on a very exciting journey.”

Despite the team’s bleak prospects in light of the current crisis and its interest in selling itself, Claire Williams is adopting a confident posture in the face of uncertainty.

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Williams considers sale – terminates ROKiT sponsorship!

Williams Grand Prix Holdings is considering a partial or full sale of its assets, including its Formula 1 team, as financial pressure mounts on the group amid the coronavirus crisis.

Formula 1’s economic downturn on the back of the global pandemic, with a 2020 season that has yet to get underway, is forcing several of the sport’s smaller teams to undergo strategic reviews or consider contingency plans to ensure their survival.

After McLaren’s decision to lay off 1200 people, including 70 members of its F1 team, and seek an injection of fresh capital, Williams Grand Prix Holdings is now also facing liquidity issues, inciting the company to consider an outright sale of its operations, including its F1 outfit.

“The WGPH board is undertaking a review of all the various strategic options available to the Company,” Williams said in a statement released on Friday.

“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.”

While various investment opportunities are currently considered, Williams made clear that no concrete approaches had been received by the company or its joint financial advisers.

“The Company is not in receipt of any approaches at the time of this announcement and confirms that it is in preliminary discussions with a small number of parties regarding a potential investment in the Company,” it added.

“There can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which any offer will be made. The WGPH board reserves the right to alter or terminate the process at any time and if it does so it will make an announcement as appropriate.

“The WGPH board also reserves the right to reject any approach or terminate discussions with any interested party at any time.”

Williams’ strategic review was announced at the same time as it disclosed its 2019 financial numbers which resulted in a loss of £13 million compared to a profit of £12.9 million the year before.

WGPH revenue declined from £176.5m in 2018 to £160.2m in 2019, while F1 revenue fell from £130.7m in 2018 to £95.4 million in 2019, with losses of £10.1 million compared to a profit of £16 million the previous year.

Furthermore, Williams announced that it has terminated its sponsorship deal with ROKiT which was due to run until the end of 2023.

“The financial results for 2019 reflect the recent decline in competitiveness of the F1 operation and the consequent reduction in commercial rights income”, said Williams CEI Mike O’Driscoll.

“The 2020 Formula 1 season has, of course, been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this will have an impact on our commercial rights income this year.

“The Team have also served notice to terminate its relationship with its title partner, ROKiT, and major sponsor, ROK Drinks. In common with many other businesses, we have taken extensive action to mitigate, including a prolonged furlough period for much of our staff.

“As this awful global crisis recedes, everyone at Williams Racing is looking forward to the start of the new season.”

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Williams rates Ticktum as 'one of the best'

Williams F1 deputy team principal Claire Williams says that the squad’s new development driver Dan Ticktum is one of the best drivers that they have seen in the simulator.

Ticktum was formerly a part of the Red Bull junior driver programme and was runner-up to Mick Schumacher in the 2018 FIA Euro F3 Series.

He had been touted as Helmut Marko’s preferred candidate to step into F1 with Toro Rosso, but lacked the superlicence points to do so and the spot went to Alexander Albon instead.

The 20-year-old Londoner was subsequently dropped by Red Bull after a disappointing start to his 2019 Super Formula campaign, just three races into the season.

Williams has now picked up Ticktum as part of its revamped test and development programme after being particularly impressed by his work in the simulator.

“When we put him in our simulator, the guys said he was one of the best drivers they’ve ever seen,” Williams told MotorsportWeek.com this week.

“He’s got great talent. I think it needs harnessing, but we have experience doing that,” she added. “It’s going to be really interesting with Dan and we’re looking forward to working with him.”

Ticktum’s split from Red Bull came amid rumours that Marko wasn’t happy with his professionalism. Previously, he had been handed a lengthy ban from motorsport in 2016 for deliberately crashing into a rival behind the safety car during a MSA Formula race.

But Williams wasn’t concerned about how he would fit in at Grove, and said there was no question of any prima donna behaviour.

“He knows what’s expected of him and how he needs to behave,” she insisted. “Everyone has to roll their sleeves up and do the job in the way that is expected of them.

“He’s one person in a team of 750,” she continued. “We’ve always had the attitude at Williams that no one is more important than anyone else.

“Dan knows and understands that,” Williams added. “With the experiences that he’s had now, I think he’s matured a lot and is willing to get his head down and just do the job that we’re asking him to do.”

As well as joining the Williams’ Formula 1 Driver Academy, Ticktum will also take part in the 2020 Formula 2 championship where he will be driving for reigning team champions DAMS.

It’s a second chance for Ticktum, who looked at the verge of being permanently left out in the cold after his split with Red Bull.

“[Dan is] a great British talent that shouldn’t be lost in our sport, for whatever reason,” Williams insisted.

“The way testing is now in Formula 1, it’s so difficult for these guys to get any kind of air-time to showcase their talent, or the develop their talent.

“Programmes like the academy are so important, so that we can take that talent that can potentially be lost and give them the opportunities,” she continued.

“The FP1 sessions – or the test days, whatever – in order to see what they can do, so we don’t potentially lose talent that otherwise may be lost.”

However Ticktum won’t be the team’s official reserve driver, a position that has instead gone to Israeli driver Roy Nissany who took part in post-season testing with the team at Abu Dhabi last month. Like Ticktum, Nissany will also be racing in F2, for Trident.

And the Williams simulator duties will be shared with W Series champion Jamie Chadwick, who confirmed earlier this month that she had been retained in her development role at Williams for a second season.

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Ticktum ‘one of best drivers Williams has ever seen’

Claire Williams is excited to work with Dan Ticktum, whose simulator work resulted in the “guys saying he was one of the best drivers they’ve ever seen”.

Ticktum has joined Williams as a development driver for the 2020 campaign after being axed from the Red Bull programme following a underwhelming start to his 2019 Super Formula season and rumours of behavioural issues.

The 2017 and 2018 Macau Grand Prix winner still has a lingering bad reputation after he received a lengthy ban for crashing into a rival under Safety Car conditions on purpose in MSA Formula in 2016.

Given a fresh start by Williams, the deputy principal says Ticktum has left a good first impression through his time in the simulator and are ready to “harness” his talent.

“I think it’s going to be really interesting with Dan and we’re looking forward to working with him,” Claire Williams said when asked by MotorsportWeek.com about Ticktum.

“And I know when we put him in our simulator, the guys said he was one of the best drivers they’ve ever seen.

“I think he’s got great talent. I think it needs harnessing. We have experience doing that.

“He knows what’s expected of him and, you know, how he needs to behave.

“He’s one person in a team of 750 and we’ve always had the attitude at Williams that no one is more important than anyone else, everyone has to roll their sleeves up and do the job in the way that is expected of them.

“And I think Dan knows and understands that. And I think with the experiences that he’s had now, I think he’s matured a lot and is willing to get his head down and just do the job that we’re asking him to do.”

Ticktum is not expected to be given any track time by Williams in 2020, with Israeli Roy Nissany the first in line as test driver to be given opportunities to try out the Formula 1 car for real.

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Russell bullish on Williams after 'big aero reset' for 2020

After a maiden Formula 1 season spent mostly at the back of the grid, Williams’ George Russell hopes the team is capable of making significant progress in 2020 to put it back on an equal footing with its midfield rivals.

“The rate of improvement we are on is really strong,” he told Autosport magazine. “If everybody else doesn’t improve at all, we’ll be well and truly in that fight.”

Russell explained that the improvements were part of a major overhaul by the team in all departments, and in particular in its approach to aerodynamics.

“The team took a big reset with an aero philosophy,” he said. “We had to take that hit in performance to rebuild those foundations, so starting [last] season we were not surprised, the position we were in.

“We did hope to improve at a greater rate than we did, but those foundations took longer to put in place than we all anticipated.

“Now we can really see it in the windtunnel tracker of the downforce we had at the start of [last] year, to what we have in the car now, to what we believe we will be starting with [in 2020].

“The only thing we don’t know is how much everybody else will improve,” he acknowledged. “Everybody has improved, but we believe we should be improving at a much greater rate.”

With a full season of F1 under his belt, the 21-year-old Mercedes protégé will now effectively be team leader following the departure of his former team mate Robert Kubica. The Pole’s place will be taken by Canadian rookie Nicholas Latifi.

©Williams

“I want to see progress in myself and I want to see progress in the car,” Russell said of his expectations for his sophomore year. “I do believe that we will be stronger.

“And going to 2021, which will have all of those foundations built again, it should definitely be well and truly on its way.”

Although Russell finished last year as the only driver not to score a single championship point, the Briton is not downhearted about the slow start to his F1 career and recently got the thumbs-up from Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

“We are absolutely certain that he has the qualities of a potential future Mercedes driver,” Wolff told RaceFans‘ Dieter Rencken. “He has the raw speed, he has the talent, he has the intelligence.

“There is a reason why he’s won GP3 and F2 as a rookie. It hasn’t been done many times before. And he has a flawless record in Formula 1.”

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Nissany: The goal is to race in Israel in 2021

There may be more than meets the eye with regards to Williams’ signing little known Israeli driver Roy Nissany, as he hinted this may be the first step towards a Grand Prix in the country.

At the post-grand prix test in Abu Dhabi last year, the unknown 25-year-old Nissany was suddenly at the wheel of Williams’ 2019 car.

He was quickly ridiculed, not only because he was several seconds off the pace of Williams’ regular drivers, but because his then 42-year-old father Chanoch was even slower when he did a Friday practice for Minardi back in 2005.

For the 2020 test driver announcement, which will involve Nissany doing several Friday practice sessions, Claire Williams travelled to Roy’s native Tel Aviv.

He has strong Israeli backing, including by the new Tour de France team Israel Start-Up Nation.

“I feel like we are all putting the Israeli flag on the map,” Nissany said.

La Gazzetta dello Sport said it could just be the first step towards a grand prix in Israel, “The goal is to race in Israel in 2021. It would be a dream to be able to drive there, with 350 million people admiring my country on TV.

“For me it has been a long journey – almost 20 years. Formula 1 was never a dream but a goal. Williams is a wonderful place to learn and I am very grateful to be offered this opportunity,” he said.

Israel Start-Up Nation was founded by Canadian-Israeli billionaire Sylvan Adams, who said: “The fast-track plan is for Roy to be an actual F1 driver as early as 2021. Of course, he has a few hurdles to accomplish before he can be selected to be one of the two drivers.”


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Williams ease concerns over 2020 budget

Deputy team principal, Claire Williams, has revealed the team have a “healthy racing budget” for the upcoming 2020 Formula 1 season.

Williams’ finances have become a talking point over the course of the winter having recently sold a majority equity stake in their sister company Williams Advanced Engineering to an independent private equity firm controlled by EMK Capital.

Polish oil company Orlen departed as a major Williams sponsor following Robert Kubica’s exit, while other sponsors such as Unilever (now in partnership with McLaren), Symantec, Omnitude and Tata Communications also left.

But, the arrival of Nicholas Latifi, backed by his father, Michael, has helped to offset those exits and Claire Williams has reassured everyone that a budget is available for the team in 2020.

“Sponsorship is hard, it isn’t easy,” Claire Williams told Motorsport.com.

“We all know that and I don’t think any team is finding the sponsorship market in F1 very easy.

“Our business model actually relies heavily on sponsorship and it’s never easy. It hasn’t been for the past decades, but we still managed to find a healthy racing budget with which to do what we need to do over the course of the year.

“We have that going into this year. Obviously as you all know, we sold a majority stake in Advanced Engineering, the proceeds of which come into the F1 team, in order to bolster the budget as well. So I have no concerns over the racing budget for 2020.”

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Kubica not using 'cheap excuses' to explain 2019 flop

Robert Kubica says he won’t offer any ‘cheap excuses’ for why his 2019 Formula 1 comeback proved to be such a crushing disappointment.

The 35-year-old Pole was out of the sport for eight seasons after suffering life-changing injuries from an off-season rallying accident at the start of 2011.

He was eventually able to make his F1 return with Williams in 2019, but the overall poor performance of the car meant that he was firmly stuck at the back of the grid for the entire campaign.

While he did pick up one championship point with an opportunistic top ten finish in Germany, his performances generally compared poorly with his rookie team mate George Russell.

But Kubica didn’t want to blame the injuries to his right arm for how the campaign turned out, even though they had meant that he was having to drive “70 per cent left-handed” all season.

“Sometimes we want to make people believe that Formula 1 is simple, but it is not,” he told Motorsport.com. “There are a lot of factors which have a big influence on the final result.

“One of the factors which is not a big influence is actually my limitations in high-speed [sections],” he stated, adding that the car’s handling issues had been a far bigger factor overall.

“When you lack the grip, it is normal that you lose more in more challenging areas,” he pointed out. “Also you lose more when you have two, three corners in a row than only one corner or a straight line.

“This is something where I’m sure my limitations are not influencing my driving, on this type of area.”

He also dismissed suggestions that his problems had been linked to the tricky 2019 tyre compounds.

“I see that as a cheap excuse for an unsuccessful season,” Kubica insisted. “I think I am clever enough and good enough to understand what I should do with the tyres.

“Of course, ultimately it is the driver who is driving the car. But we have exactly the same targets and exactly the same things operationally regarding the tyres,” he said. “[However] it’s not a driver which is choosing which way to go and how the tyres should operate, it’s still teamwork.

©BMWMotorsport

“I have my opinions on many areas where I definitely could have done better,” he continued. “There were occasions where I could perform and I did perform well, but they were hidden with some external factors.

“With the circumstances we were in, it was extremely important for me to start the season with a good consistency so I could build up my comeback on this,” he continued. “Unfortunately, this didn’t happen.”

Kubica also suggested that a lack of support and feddback from the team had been an issue, contributing to his decision in September to announce he was quitting Williams at the end of the season.

“There were occasions where I didn’t hear any answer, or I had no idea why we were so underperforming from day to day,” he complained. “This is something which is worse, because in order to improve you need to understand the reasons.

“There’s no point of having a medicine for something which isn’t causing your illness,” he pointed out.

Having made his departure from Williams, Kubica will now serve as reserve driver at Alfa Romeo in support of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi in 2020. He’s also taken part in DTM rookie testing with BMW, but is yet to be confirmed with a seat in the championship.

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