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Frank Williams another stage closer to handing over F1 team
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Darren Heath
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Mar 2012   |  5:03 pm GMT  |  49 comments

Sir Frank Williams, who oversaw the eight world constructors’ championships for his team between 1980 and 1997, has taken another step back with the announcement today that he is to step down from the board of the team he founded.

This highly phased process follows on from his partner Patrick Head withdrawing from the F1 team at the end of last year.

Williams, who will be 70 years old next month, described it as “the next stage in the gradual, but inevitable process of handing over the reins”. He remains team principal for the moment, but that will surely change at some point too.

Williams is the last of the “old guard” team principals, like Ron Dennis, Jean Todt and Flavio Briatore, all of whom have moved on from running F1 teams.

At the same time, Williams’ daughter Claire has been promoted to the board. Claire has worked her way up through the business, mainly in the communications side and she now takes over the critical responsibility for sponsorship, media and communications. She will also represent the Williams’ family’s interests on the board. Her father is still a 51% shareholder, even if Head has now sold the majority of his shares via last year’s flotation.

Adam Parr, Williams chairman said, “Claire will be accountable for acquiring new partners for the Williams F1 Team as well as continuing to be responsible for ensuring effective communication about the team and the Group as a whole.”

That’s a very significant responsibility; one that has been handled recently by Dominic Reilly, who’s leaving the team to set up his own business. Although there are indications that his business will work alongside Williams in some areas.

“This is an opportune moment,” said Sir Frank. “For me to consider my own role in the team. I turn 70 in April and I have decided to signal the next stage in the gradual but inevitable process of handing over the reins to the next generation by stepping down from the Board at the end of this month. This is not as dramatic a move as it may appear: I shall continue to work full-time as Team Principal and I shall continue to attend all Board meetings as observer

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49 Comments
  1. I feel quite sad about this …

  2. Kevin Green says:

    Did say this would be happening soon enough a couple of months back or it would be closed doors. To me this is a message from frank saying there not where he thought/hoped they would be at this point of testing in relation to other times and its time to sell up and get out before we have to shut shop. it will be interesting to see how that message interperate’s to say the likes of VW group who instantly spring to mind! great foundations to start on!

    1. Martin says:

      Dont be daft, getting fed up of your anti- Williams posts in almost every topic.

      1. Kevin Green says:

        Watch that space!

      2. Martin says:

        “To me this is a message from frank saying there not where he thought/hoped they would be at this point of testing in relation to other times”

        Dont know what times you have been looking at but Williams race sim pace looks pretty good, too many people base there predictions on where the team was last season, this is a new car, new engine, new people, like Sir Frank said himself this is a new start for his team, he is still team principle and the majority shareholder and Williams is not about to lose it’s identity, even if (I dont think this is going to happen) the team were sold any buyer would be mad to not build on the Williams heritage built by Sir Frank that can only be bettered by Mclaren and Ferrari, I also think Williams will surprise one or two this season.

      3. Kevin Green says:

        To be fair they have been on a pretty constant decline for over a decade (that’s a long time)Nothing lasts for ever unless its really good or very resourcefull!

        Williams i fear need every penny they can gather at every point and its a struggle struggle changed days and i cant see that changing without serious backing of which i do not think is coming (in the guise of the current team name)

        As for this years car?? wait and see they will be no better or worst off than last season if not slipped behind Caterham and even if not initially they will do by the seasons end. You have me wrong as far as Williams goes i don’t dislike them at all i quite admire them you obv have picked up on my prev Senna post and yes i do believe they were the “more so” factor into Senna’s passing either way. You are clearly a Williams fan as such of which i am not but i do Admire them the team and Frank for what they have done.

        Like i said nothing lasts for ever unless sustainable whether it be through finance health resource or of course in a outfit the size of Williams or any other F1 team or similar the correct CURRENT people lose them and its the spiral into the inevitable eventual fate.

        Keep in mind even if as i expect Williams will be aquired for another team base and on that prob a major manufacturer with the un sung size boost this new tv rights is going to give F1 and the sponsors (its going to be a massive commercial step forward) You can bet VW for one are going to be wanting in on the action not to mention the re emerge of prev manufacturers.

        I see if under demand and on that the right demand/resource/ambition that there’s room for a further 8 cars in the future on top of the 24 slots currently available.

        The name wont die it will simply sleep or sell on whether it be sooner or at a later date.

  3. zombie says:

    Take a bow to the great man! So another guard of the “Garagista” private teams falls flat on its face with more black coats taking over.

    Too bad that the last decade of Williams has been mired with failures and they only seem to be in the news when they have something to say against Ferrari.

  4. Martin says:

    Crikey maybe this could be Sir Frank’s last season as team principal, it will be a sad day for F1 if that is the case, I just hope the FW34 can give him a podium at least this year.

  5. goferet says:

    Uh change, never pleasant and worst of all they say that the only thing that doesn’t change is flipping change itself —> Life sucks!!!

    For sure Frank Williams has had an amazing run and the fact that he’s the last of the old guard to still be in charge speaks volumes about the man.

    Now Sir Frank, there’s a bloke that can take a punch, no matter how bad things are, no matter how bad the results are, he will always try and try again.

    But of late (matter of fact since he got rid of Newey in the 90s), he’s been making lots of harsh decisions especially in terms of firing drivers and I wonder if the board is trying to gradually push him out so as to save the business for it’s quite clear by the appointment of Frank Williams’ daughter in charge of looking for sponsors & partners that the Williams team is now a business in the true sense of the word (i.e to maximize profits) & not a sporting entity that’s main goal is to win trophies.

    As for Patrick Head & Dominic Reilly, now there are pragmatic fellows that when the chips are down, it’s time to jump ship and sell the shares (or start up your own business) while they’re still worth something —> All 4 one and one 4 all – as they say!

    P.s.

    If Frank Williams had a son, I suspect, he would have been the one to take over the reins and not Adam Parr

    Men are pigs!

    1. James Allen says:

      He does have a son….

      1. Kevin Green says:

        lol :)

    2. Richard B. says:

      which drivers does he fire harshly?

      1. Lee Hilton says:

        Hulkenberg. got Williams last pole, then dropped him in favour of Pastor Maldonado. What a backward step that was. Think Williams choice/treatment of drivers has always been questionable.

      2. Justin says:

        but it was a 30 mil pound step backward..

      3. Kevin Green says:

        correct if your team ain’t efficient its sadly about the money, my prev comments on ridiculous levels of aero budgets comes to mind!!! how many greats have to collapse before the sport becomes relevant sensible and more real??? Williams are in very poor shape as i prev said believe me!

      4. Lee Hilton says:

        Im a Williams fan, I think the FW14b was the best F1 car ever built, but i think its sad that a once great team like williams has to resort to pay drivers. Hulkenberg should never have been let go for a no hoper like Pastor Maldonado.

      5. Ray says:

        Damon Hill?

        “Nice championship you won for us, now GTFO.”

        I agree with the sentiment above, Williams has the appearance of a company that is in it for profit maximisation. I just don’t see any passion there.

      6. Kevin Green says:

        To be fair Damon in any other team at any other time inc williams outwith that season? NO not good enough EVER nice guy but never single’y that good.

      7. Richard B. says:

        damon was driving poorly in 1995, he was in the quickest car and didn’t win. this is when Williams decided to hire frentzen for 1997 and at the time it was a smart decision as he looked a promising talent.
        damon knew 1996 was his last year at williams, dug deep and won the title (not that he had compitition with schumacher at ferrari)sir frank admits it was the wrong decision but hindsights a wonderful thing

      8. Serrated_Edge says:

        Fired Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill the seasons the became World Champions….

    3. Chris says:

      And why couldn’t his daughter run the show?

      1. goferet says:

        @ Chris

        And why couldn’t his daughter run the
        show?
        ————————————————–

        I believe Bernie is more in a position to answer that.

        Apparently F1 is an all boys club from what I can see.

      2. Thompson says:

        1995 – that was the year the value of a good pit stop was bought to the world. Damon leading Schumacher untill the 1st pit stop, then Schumi would jump him.Leaving everyone scratching their heads….

        I never knew Patrick Head had left till i read it on BBC red button this morning.

        Karma…..

    4. Snowy says:

      What are you on about?! Name me a team who DOESN’T have someone looking for sponsors and partners!

  6. Marcus in Canada says:

    It’s not just the driver characters that are disappearing, the bosses/owners are less interesting too. Sir Frank is not only the last of the old guard, but the last of the bosses/owners who showed some real personality that a fan could relate to. His personality gave the team it’s personality. Sad day for F1.

    1. Luke Potter says:

      It does amuse me that every time someone even remotely interesting leaves F1, the old “last of the great personalities” line comes out. I have been hearing it all the time ever since I started watching Formula One nearly twenty years ago.

      You think that someone has a great personality because you know them well thanks to them having been around for a while. They’re therefore the most likely to leave, because they’ve been around for a while.

      What (to take one of many possible examples) is wrong with Christian Horner? He started out as a driver, realised he wasn’t good enough and set up his own team, which became a great success and led him to F1. His passion for motorsport has brought him to the very top and he is a very engaging chap too. Rather like Frank Williams, no?

    2. Athlander says:

      I agree. Even though I think he must take some responsibility for Williams’ decline since the Newey era and I’d question his attitude towards his drivers at times, he helped define an era of Formula 1 that has all but ended. I think we’ll see team principals as less of a focal point of the team and perhaps the role will disappear altogether.

  7. Kay says:

    Good luck to the Williams F1 team in the future! I hope they will get back to their winning ways very soon!

  8. Alan Camilleri says:

    Indeed a very sad but unavoidable announcement. Sir Frank is the last TRUE GARAGISTE, one of the persons who have raised Formula 1 to the sport it is today. To all this we salute Sir Frank. I sincerely hope that the new generation at Williams F1 brings again the fighting spirit and success he is known for.

    Alan

  9. Chessiah says:

    I wonder, why Williams used to win Championships before, just like Red Bull is doing now.

    1. Alex W says:

      Best designers and drivers, they kept the best drivers for awhile longer than the designers, but now they have neither.

      1. Richard Mee says:

        I think Chessiah is subtly making the point that all a given F1 team needs to do in order to be very successful relatve to everyone else is to hire Adrian Newey.

        A frankly preposterous notion that I can easily counter via a long string of evidence… such as…. and…. not forgetting…. oh, hang-on.

  10. Michael Harries says:

    Is Toto Wolff still looking to get more involved? Surely he would be a more natural successor than Adam Parr.

    I have to think Frank is getting it out there(for the attention of the VW group I bet) that he is withdrawing from the business, and his shareholding – the majority shareholding – would be for sale.

  11. VV says:

    A sad day. Williams won’t be the same once he leaves for good.

  12. goferet says:

    @ James Allen

    He does have a son
    —————————

    Whoops Lol…

    @ Richard B

    Which drivers did he fire harshly
    ——————————————–

    Well am told the following drivers weren’t treated too good by Williams and were got rid of or were forced to move

    Damon Hill

    Jacques Villeneuve

    Juan Pablo Montoya

    Nico Hulkenburg

    As for Jenson, he jumped ship a long time ago and bought out his contract

    1. Maybe Damon Hill is the only one on this list that was pushed away.

      Montoya went to McLaren by choice (I’d imagine he witnessed the start of the decline in 04).
      Villeneuve moved to BAR on his own accord. Remember that the team’s principal was his manager and that BAT had a lot of money to pour into the team.

      They would have kept Nico Hulkenberg (please note the spelling of his surname) if it wasn’t for a lack of sponsorship funds.

      Of the drivers they didn’t keep purely on performance, I think only Alex Zanardi and HH Frentzen fit the bill. Nakajima was only there as part of the Toyota engine deal.

    2. Racyboy says:

      Rubens should have been treated with a bit more respect as well.

      1. AndyFov says:

        In an era where Frank’s car reigned supreme you can’t really blame him for putting a cheap driver in place of a someone saying “I’m a WDC now, I warrant more respect £20m a year.”

        The greatest corner shop owner that ever lived would struggle to stay in business with a Tesco Express next door. Charisma and personality are making way for soulless corporate expansion in all areas of business, and F1′s no exception. This is sad news indeed.

    3. Justin says:

      Williams also made some statement to the effect of “we must have Nico{Rosberg} back next year to be successful.” before he went to Merc. so i don’t think that he was forced out.

      1. Kevin Green says:

        No chance of Nico going back unless they clearly have a better car in place than the rest of the field and i cant see that ever happening again under the Williams team as we currently know it.

    4. Serrated_Edge says:

      and Nigel Mansell in 1992…..

  13. Dan Orsino says:

    It’s the old guard now gone who have created the F1 we all love. We’ve enjoyed railing against Ron and Flavio and FW at times, but [musn't forget Bernie altogether I suppose ] we have a great deal to thank them for.

    Shame that FW missed a trick with Kimi, but it seems maybe Sir F was outsmarted for once by Kimi’s agent!!

  14. Mon Pen says:

    The man is 70 years old and has in his time produced a world winning team, give him respect please.

    I do question some of his decisions and his rather peculiar nepotism (Hill, ghastly Villeneuve, Rosberg and the utterly mediocre Senna junior) and what the bejayzus are you doing with an idiot like Maldonado but he and his team are true racers. Enjoy your retirement Sir Frank, you are the last of a true breed. Wonderful man, we can all learn a lot from him.

    1. Chris C says:

      well said

      Curtains falls to the Williams team that will surely be bought in the near to mid future

      1. Kevin Green says:

        correct! my money as prev said is VW group in due course

    2. Tim says:

      Nepotism is favoritism granted to relatives regardless of merit. I think pragmatism would be a fairer accusation.Sadly, the once mighty Williams F1 Team has been reduced to using drivers who can pay for their seat in order to balance the books.
      As for Damon Hill – he was mediocre at best, he won the WC in a totally dominant car. When he was ‘let go’ I don’t recall a mad scramble by any of the other teams to snap him up.
      All the best to Sir Frank, a truly remarkable man.

      1. mm says:

        I agree. Your comments re Hill also apply wrt Villeneuve and Barrichelo. Sir Frank Williams is/was a great man and leader who changed the course of F1 history in a profound personal way. I therefore shall always support the Williams F1 Team and wish them a podium finish soon during 2012!

  15. Spyros says:

    Decades ago, I remember I didn’t like Sir Frank. I thought he was too much of a cynic, someone who saw F1 as a business, first and foremost.

    Now, even the last romantics know he was right.

    I sincerely hope that his team can return to its past glory.

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