The Williams Formula One team is to consider putting itself up for sale in order to ensure its future. The team, still one of the most successful and longest running in F1 has been fiercely independent in the hands of owner Sir Frank Williams since its debut in 1977. However, after announcing losses of £13m last year and under increasing financial pressure because of the coronavirus, Williams are to open negotiations on the partial or complete sale of the company.
On Friday the team issued a statement announcing it was to take a “new strategic direction” and would use financial advisors to review their position and identify and assess businesses interested in investment or takeover. Williams stated they were already in discussions with a small number of potential investors.
The F1 team remains the second most successful constructor with nine championships to Ferrari’s 16. All were scored during the team’s heyday in the 1980s and 1990s when they also took seven drivers’ titles.
Their performances in recent years however have left the team floundering. Their last title drivers’ and constructors’ title was in 1997 and the last win in 2012. They have finished last in both of the past two seasons, which has directly affected the performance-related income from F1. Their chief executive officer, Mike O’Driscoll, acknowledged it had made a major impact.
“The financial results for 2019 reflect the recent decline in competitiveness of the F1 operation and the consequent reduction in commercial rights income,” he said. “The 2020 Formula One 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.”
Publishing their financial report for 2019 the company had suffered a loss of £13m, after posting a profit of £12.9m the previous year. In their statement O’Driscoll also announced the team were to end their title sponsorship deal with telecommunications company ROKit.
“The WGPH board is undertaking a review of all the various strategic options available to the company,” read the statement. “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.”
Claire Williams, the deputy team principal, who has run the F1 team since 2013 has long supported the recently announced budget cap from F1 and O’Driscoll identified it as a crucial step in the future for the team and the sport.
“There has been an enormous gap in earnings and expenditure between the three largest teams and the rest of the grid for a number of years,” he said. “But we are confident that Liberty Media’s long-term vision and plans, including a first-ever cost-cap for the sport, will deliver a more level playing field for 2021 and beyond.”
The Williams group consists of the F1 team and their Williams Advanced Engineering operation, in which they sold a majority stake at the end of 2019.
The statement insisted that the team was still fully functioning and ready to compete. “While the company has faced a number of challenges, Williams currently remains funded and ready to resume racing when the calendar allows in 2020,” it read.
Meanwhile, Mercedes’ parent company Daimler has rejected reports that the German brand could be about to pull out of Formula One and that Toto Wolff was planning to resign as managing partner.
At a time when six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has been discussing a new contract with the Silver Arrows, reports in Germany suggested Wolff might step away from his current role in order to partner with Lawrence Stroll to oversee a buy-out of Mercedes.
However, a statement from Daimler reaffirmed its commitment to Formula One. “Speculation regarding a potential withdrawal from Formula One continues to be unfounded and irresponsible,” the statement said.