The Williams family will end its association with the team that bears its name after this weekend’s Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix, with team founder and principal Sir Frank Williams and deputy team principal Claire Williams both set to step aside.
The news follows the outfit’s sale to US investment firm Dorilton Capital and the recent confirmation that it had signed the new Concorde Agreement.
“With the future of the team now secured, this feels like the appropriate time for us to step away from the sport,” said Claire Williams.
“We have been in this sport for more than four decades. We are incredibly proud of our track record and the legacy we leave behind. We have always been in it for the love of it, for the pure pleasure of going motor racing, so this is not a decision that we have taken lightly but after much reflection and as a family.
“This may be the end of an era for Williams as a family-run team, but it is the beginning of a new era for Williams Racing and we wish them much success in the future.
“On behalf of Frank and the Williams family, I would like to say how incredibly grateful and humbled we are for the support we have enjoyed over the years, from our friends in the paddock to the many fans around the world.”
No announcement has been made as to who will succeed Claire Williams as the day-to-day figurehead of the Grove outfit, a position she has effectively held since 2013. She joined the team in 2002 as a press officer and was promoted to the board as commercial and marketing director in 2012.
Claire Williams insisted that the decision to leave was hers, driven in part by the desire to have more time with her family and young son.
“It is with a heavy heart that I am stepping away from my role with the team,” she added. “I had hoped to continue my tenure long into the future and to preserve the Williams family’s legacy into the next generation.
“My family has always put our racing team and our people first and this was absolutely the right decision. I know in them we have found the right people to take Williams back to the front of the grid while also preserving the Williams legacy.”
“I have taken the decision to step away from the team in order to allow Dorilton a fresh start as the new owners.
“It has not been an easy decision but it’s one I believe to be right for all involved. I have been enormously privileged to have grown up in this team and in the wonderful world that is F1.
“I have loved every minute and will be forever grateful for the opportunities it has given me. But it’s also an incredibly challenging sport and I now want to see what else the world holds for me. Most importantly, I want to spend time with my family.
“I would like to thank Dorilton for their support and for understanding my decision. I would also like to thank our fans who have stuck by us through thick and thin.
“Our people at Williams have always been family, they have kept me motivated during the difficult times and it is them who I will miss the most. It is my genuine hope that the process we’ve gone through brings them the success they deserve.
“And finally, I would like to thank my dad for everything he has given to the team, the sport and our family.”
Williams has been part of the Formula 1 landscape since 1977, following two earlier and unsuccessful incarnations led by Frank Williams: his eponymous Frank Williams Racing Cars team (1969-1975) and a joint-venture Wolf-Williams Racing (1976).
The outfit is one of four teams to have won more than 100 Grands Prix in its history. It won the Drivers’ Championship titles in 1980 (Alan Jones), 1982 (Keke Rosberg), 1987 (Nelson Piquet), 1992 (Nigel Mansell), 1993 (Alain Prost), 1996 (Damon Hill) and 1997 (Jacques Villeneuve), as well as nine Constructors’ Championship titles between 1980 and 1997 – the latter stood as a record for the sport until Ferrari surpassed it in 2000.
The statements confirming the departures of Sir Frank and Claire Williams from their respective roles was followed by a third statement confirming the new make-up of the company’s board.
A three-man team will now occupy board positions: Dorilton co-founders Matthew Savage (Chairman) and Darren Fultz (CEO), as well as James Matthews who is the CEO of Eden Rock Group.
A former racing driver, Matthews won the British Formula Renault and Formula Renault Eurocup titles in 1994 before switching careers to financial trading. He is the brother-in-law of Prince William, having married Pippa Middleton who is the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge.
“The new Board recognises and appreciates the importance of retaining Williams’ heritage and culture and will continue to work with the senior management to leverage its capabilities to return it to racing competitively,” the statement concluded.
Dorilton Capital has already confirmed that it would retain the Williams Racing name and had no plans to relocate from its existing base at Grove in Oxfordshire.
Images via ABC, Williams Racing and XPB
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