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Williams lines up daughter Claire as his long term successor
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Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Mar 2013   |  9:44 am GMT  |  83 comments

Williams F1 has today confirmed the recent paddock speculation that Claire Williams has become Deputy Team Principal, with the objective of succeeding her father one day.

Claire has worked within the F1 team for over ten years, starting out as a junior in the media department, rising to become head of communications and more recently a director and head of the commercial side of the team and of Investor Relations.

She is the third person to be lined up as Sir Frank’s successor in the last few years; Adam Parr was anointed heir, but Williams realised his fractious relationship with Bernie Ecclestone was not going to be helpful for the team, while Toto Wolff abruptly left the team over the winter to take up the top job at Mercedes.


Sir Frank Williams, who will soon turn 71, said, “Over the past decade Claire has worked tirelessly for Williams. Her knowledge of the sport and passion for the team is unquestionable and I’m proud to say that during her time here she has proven herself to be one of our most valuable assets.

“With Claire being appointed Deputy Team Principal, I know the future of Williams is in extremely safe hands. This appointment also had Ginny’s blessing who I know would have been incredibly proud to have seen Claire taking on this position by my side.”

Claire Williams said, “I’m truly honoured to be taking on the role of Deputy Team Principal and look forward to working alongside Frank to help run the team this season and beyond. I have grown up in the sport and have learnt the ropes from one of Formula One’s legendary Team Principals and as a result I feel well equipped for this new challenge.”

It will be a significant challenge; Williams is heavily dependent on its payments from FOM and its relationship with Ecclestone as well as on sponsorship from Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA. Although they have some exciting projects in Qatar and on the hybrid technology side, they need to diversify their income streams and especially build a portfolio of large sponsors to protect themselves from any sudden withdrawals, especially with the Venezuelan backing being dependent on a fluid political situation in the wake of the death of president Hugo Chavez.

There has been quite a lot of turnover of staff at Williams recently on the engineering operations side with two senior figures Mark Gillan and Dominic Harlow moving on.

On a technical level the team has started the 2013 season on the back foot with a car which has proved uncompetitive in the first two races of the season. They are yet to score a point, along with only Caterham and Marussia.

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  1. P says:

    Is it right that Toto Wolff is a shareholder in Williams and more recently Mercedes?

    Couldn’t this be a potential conflict of interest? Presumably it has Bernie’s signoff, but at some point could be a problem?

    Unless he is kept out of the loop at what happens at Williams since he is not “working” there, but he owns 16% of the company, and would care about his investment.

    Not trying to stir the pot, just curious.

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, he still holds the shares, but he also holds shares in Mercedes

    2. ashboy says:

      Or Williams will have Merc Engines next year.

      Also if Merc pulled the plug on the F1 team who do you think will get the works team role. Toto will supply his own team before Mclaren, Force india ect.

      The other benifit would be if we ever get “customer cars” Merc would supply Williams.

      I think Frank welcomed the news because Merc is a major world wide car manafacture, you may even get a merc SLK Williams Hybrid in a couple of years. Like Adam was doing with Jag. This link is one of the mane reason why Mclaren are pussing Honda.

      1. Chris says:

        Honestly don’t think that will be Wolff’s decision. Force India have always been a good customer. Mind you, with their tie in with Mclaren, could we see FI Hondas?

        James?

      2. ashboy says:

        Not saying they wont supply FI, they have always bought there engines. I’m suggesting Williams could get them FOC like Mclaren used to and RB get Renualt FOC.

        As for who’s decision, Norbut was the driving force in teaming Merc and Mclaren together and Wolf has taken his job plus some shares. so even tho it might not be entialy upto him, he will have a say, and bend a few more ears.

        I just think Wolf is the glue between the to and Williams need more then just F1 to survife. There will be some sort of link in the future im sure.

      3. Andrew Carter says:

        If customer cars get brought back there’s not a chanc ein hell that Williams would stop building their own and run someone elses.

      4. ashboy says:

        depends on how they word the rules. you would off said the same about Ferria suppling engines to other teams ten years ago.

        I agree they would fight a rule tooth and nail.

      5. P says:

        I guess I was thinking of potential downsides in this arrangement. What if for example Team A discovers something through their engineering side on the tyres which is key to performance (and not car specific). You would hope that he wouldn’t share this with Team B.

        Or is this kind of collusion allowed in F1?

      6. ashboy says:

        I think if you owend two teams you would have a word, drop some hints and the like with the engineering department. As long as they dont copy each others designs how would anybody no?

      7. Chris says:

        What if team B discover something?

    3. Kevin Green says:

      There’s something far wrong there there needs to be clear rulings against one person or organisation having financial interests in more than 1 team i.e the Dr with Redbull/Torro Rosso and Toto With Mercedes and Williams, It’s an absolute joke!

      1. petes says:

        James, on the possibility of a Mercedes pull out and team handing over to Toto’s operation, I’m thinking the Mercedes engine operation would be a different operation from the racing team – so there’d be a disconnect. Would that be right?

  2. Elie says:

    All in the family Congratulations to Claire. Her mother would have been very proud indeed. Hopefully last luck will now smile upon this struggling team.

    1. Wayne says:

      Yes, what a beautiful story. I could not be more pleased to hear that a Williams family member will carry on her father’s incredible legacy to motorspot.

      With the arrogant A Parr out of the picture, I really hope things improve for eveyone’s ‘second’ team!

      1. MrNed says:

        Agree 100% with your first paragraph.

        But having read Parr’s “Art of War” book, I can’t agree that he was arrogant… indeed, it seems that it was the arrogance of other TPs that ultimately forced him out.

      2. petes says:

        Well said.

      3. Elie says:

        It is more Bernies arrogance than A Parr that led to his departure, I think if you ask Sir Frank- he would have him back on a heart beat

  3. Craig in Manila says:

    Congrats to her.
    Hope it’s third-time-lucky for Frank in terms of his preferred choices for the role.

    First task : Find out who is responsible for finding new sponsors and sack them.

    Second task : Get on the phone to Tony @ Caterham F1. Ask him round for a coffee and to discuss a merger.

    1. Adam says:

      Ummm that was Claire Williams’ old job!

      1. Craig in Manila says:

        Oh dear.

      2. Paulo Vilela says:

        Montoya: «Oh deer»
        BMW: «Like a horse, with horns»

      3. Joe Papp says:

        re, Paulo Vilela “Montoya: «Oh deer»
        BMW: «Like a horse, with horns»”

        OMG! I JUST saw that video clip for the first time ever last week! I feel so “in-the-know” now and what perfect timing!

        For anyone who doesn’t know what’s up:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_7_aJnQ1Uk

    2. Steven says:

      Why would Williams F1 want a meger with a team that has not moved forward since they came to F1? Williams will be back, Caterham will never make it, they’re pretenders.

    3. Monza71 says:

      Well said Steven : Caterham are currently the second biggest disappointment in F1 after the Williams team so why on earth would Sir Frank they want a merger ?

      Sadly, I can’t imagine that Mercedes would consider Williams as an engine customer given the current position.

      However Japanese Companies and Honda in particular, are extremely loyal and I can imagine McLaren being quite relaxed at having Williams as a secondary team sharing the engines.

      There can’t be a single British F1 enthusiast who doesn’t wish Claire and Sir Frank well in returning their team to the front of the grid. It’s heartbreaking for Sir Frank and his daughter to also lose Ginny in such circumstances.

  4. Alanis Morrisette says:

    Excellent news – she’s worked hard and earned it. And, as an unashamed fan of the female form, I have to say she will be a welcome addition to the team principal’s press conferences. I am pretty sick of having to look at Whitmarsh, Boulier and Brawn.

    1. Jock Ulah says:

      No need to be ageist –
      Forget the conferences and focus on the racing – slightly more enjoyable.

      1. Alanis Morrisette says:

        Where on earth does the ageism come into my comment? Boulier is hardly a coffin dodger. You could have accused me of sexism – and I would argue that my admiration for a beautiful woman is hardly discriminatory.

        Half of the fun of following F1 is the intrigue and politics that go on behind the scenes. The press conferences frequently provide a further insight into the minds of the people behind the sport – whether it’s the increasing gauntness of Martin Whitmarsh or the gallic ebullience of Boulier. If you don’t enjoy that – fine. But IMHO you are missing out.

      2. Jock Ulah says:

        Clarification : Cut-off point definition = 38yrs.

    2. CarlH says:

      It’s like a free ride when you’ve already paid.

      Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?

    3. magic carpet says:

      THE Alanis Morrisette!!!!???

      Don’t tell me you’re an F1 aficionado,as well!
      I think you’re amazing!
      My opinion is “I agree with Alanis”, Claire is the perfect choice to carry on the family tradition and I wish her every possible success.

      1. Sue Donim says:

        Nope!

  5. Random 79 says:

    Good news for the Williams team.

    With respect to Frank, he should have just promoted Claire in the first place :)

    1. Jonathan says:

      not as easy as that

      Williams is now a stock quoted PLC – where a family hierarchy is usually frowned on. Has anyone seen what has happened to the share price recently?

      As for Toto Wolff it is not as easy as a simple conflict. His shareholding could always be put in his wife’s name… who should get to drive a Williams at a test this year.

    2. Steve Zodiac says:

      Agree with that, it’s the only way to be sure of loyalty and not be stabbed in the back by the likes of Wolff and Parr etc.(yes I know there’s more to it than that but it has certainly de-stabilised Williams and now he has some one he can trust). It makes a refreshing change to finally see some women in F1 but when it comes to female drivers I don’t think we’ll see anyone make it until the cars have been made much easier to drive( sorry if that’s a bit sexist but it’s true that that women have struggled to hit the top in motorsport, mainly because of the physical demands I guess, could be wrong though). One thing is for sure, having women just because we think we should won’t do their cause a lot of good so we’ll have to wait until someone with genuine talent come along. It’s a shame Danica Patrick decided to go and do “pretend” racing as she could have been a real prospect

      1. Andrew Carter says:

        Patrick? Not a chance. IndyCars are every bit as physical to drive and Simona de Silvestro, now that she’s in a Chevy powered car, is proving that women can very much rac eat the front. For whatever reason there are just no talented women drivers seriously on the racing ladder in Europe.

      2. Witan says:

        “it’s the only way to be sure of loyalty and not be stabbed in the back”

        History would not agree with you there. Parricide was far too common to discount.

  6. goferet says:

    Finally the ladies are taking over.

    Good to know we shall soon have two women team principals which can only mean the prospect of women drivers/mechanics/stewards won’t be far off.

    Congrats to Claire and here’s to wishing her and the team the best of luck for the future.

    However, the fact that Sir Frank has taken this decision to appoint his daughter as future successor may indicate all is not well with the team.

    I mean, if your last resort to take over a business boils down to your family, this may mean all the clever guys in the know aren’t willing to get in bed with Williams possibly because they do not see a bright future for the team.

    Perhaps, Williams’ results in recent years has scared off the potential team principals for luck of success would ultimately also affect their wages + bonuses.

    Anyway one thing this appointment proves is the Williams team isn’t planning to throw in the towel anytime soon >>> which is good news for the old school fans.

    P.s.

    No way would I call my father by his first name Lol…

    1. Duffy says:

      “the prospect of women drivers/mechanics/stewards won’t be far off.”

      I hear Danica Patrick will be available in a year or so…just sayin’

      1. Zombie says:

        NASCAR has its first female mechanic now.

  7. CarlH says:

    It’s a real shame that neither Adam Parr (Andy Garcia) or Toto Wolff worked out. They both looked like strong leaders & would’ve been fantastic for Williams in the long run.

    But still, good luck to Claire, I fear she’s going to need it if PDVSA pull out.

  8. bmg says:

    Much nicer looking than dad.

  9. Optimaximal says:

    So… how long until she ups-sticks for Mercedes? :)

    1. Bruno Menilli says:

      Boris Johnson should have got the job !

      Joking aside I think she will do a fine job, and good luck to her.

  10. Steve Brisbane Oz says:

    Hi James

    My 1st comment for 2013 (holding back on the SV + MW) debacle!

    My daughter loves any articles relating to women in F1. So she will enjoy this!

    Congratulations to Claire! And thanks for highlighting this!

    P.S Jenson is the only one on TV that looks good with 3 day growth! [her words]…have a shave for the next One/10 HD cross [she asks]!

    The youth of today????

    Side Bar comment, she was very interested in your previous post regarding the SA school which won the F1 engineering competition.

    Can you provide a link for this? If thats not too much trouble?

    Cheers
    Steve

    1. James Allen says:

      Not got one to hand but visit F1 in Schools website

      1. Steve Brisbane Oz says:

        Cheers James.

        Much appreciated!

        For others interested;

        http://www.f1inschools.com/

  11. Chris says:

    Great to see woman making the top jobs in F1, I really think this is important!

    Congratulations, and help Williams back to the top :)

    1. Sebee says:

      She has big shoes to fill.

      Also, odds are against her.

      Apparently, a very large % (around 80% or 4/5 if I remember correctly) of businesses passed from parent to child fail within 5 years. Main reason obviously is lack of intersts and passion for the business – which isprobably not the case here. But still, it’s a big transition for the future of the business.

  12. Paul D says:

    Good luck to her – I hope she’s got what it takes.

    I do fear for the future of Williams though. I hold Frank in the highest regard and I fear if he hasn’t been able to turn the team around, I’m not sure anyone can.

    All the great teams come to a natural conclusion e.g. Lotus, Brabham, Tyrrell etc Williams will probably go the same way, but I’ll forever hold those memories of the glory days and Mansell in the FW14B :-)

  13. Rob says:

    Inbreeding is a type of cancer… People should be selected on merit.

    Williams will be gone from F1 entirely…

    1. David Ryan says:

      She’s been working at the team for the past 10 years, and was appointed to the board on merit (Sir Frank recusing himself from the decision so as to ensure it was actually on merit). Personally, I’d say she’s earned the opportunity and that predicting Williams’ demise based on her appointment is, with respect, bordering on scaremongering. Sir Frank is not a sentimentalist and never has been, certainly not where the future of his business is concerned.

    2. Robert says:

      It’s not inbreeding unless she starts sleeping with the mechanics…

      F1 and racing in general has a long, long history of being based around families and generations following generations. NASCAR is full of it, Indy is full of it (HOW many Andrettis?!?!?) and even 2 or 3 current F1 drivers are following their fathers. Saying that it is OK for the drivers but not team principles is just rubbish…there is an awful lot of “secret” knowledge and personal relationships that exist in running a team that someone that grew up around it will know and an outsider will not. Unless she is genetically of low intelligence (doubtful), she will have a leg up on anyone else trying to run that team…

    3. Craig in Manila says:

      Yeah, I think I’m with you on this one. It certainly doesnt look good (to me anyway) that his preferred choices didnt work out and he’s now had to go for a family member instead.

      I’m a big fan of Williams but I fear that the spiral into oblivion has well’n’truly commenced.

    4. Dick says:

      And how do you know that she hasn’t been selected on merit?

      1. Joe Papp says:

        Only time will tell if she is actually qualified for the position and capable of executing the responsibilities, but there is certainly an external appearance of nepotism, though I accept I have no idea of the internal workings of the board.

  14. Alistair Blevins says:

    If she has even 1/100 of the tenacity, spirit, drive and passion of her father she’ll do very well indeed.

  15. Janis says:

    Well,
    a challenge indeed it will be for her.
    Look how the team has suffered because of some arrogant strategy decisions.
    Now being Renault’s third preferred team won’t pull them out of the hole they have dug themselves. The only hope is in renewing these old BMW contacts, or perhaps having a word with Toyota. Keeping the Venezuelans happy until this happens.
    A monstrous task, that.

    1. Craig in Manila says:

      +1

  16. jay dee says:

    It was a joy to see Williams win in spain last year. Ashame that this years car seems less racey (so far). I hope Claire can lead them back to winning way’s. It has been sad to see them struggle. Almost a carbon copy of what happend with Tyrrel.

  17. Kevin Green says:

    Most likely the biggest key move to destroying Williams from what it ever was…..let’s wait and see!

  18. Lee says:

    I wish her the best of luck. I trust this was a hard nosed decision based upon a thorough analysis of all the available candidates abilities and potential and that it’s just a coincidence that she is Franks daughter.

    After all you wouldn’t catch McLaren or Ferrari making decisions with their heart in the uber competitive shark pit that is F1. There is no room for sentiment in F1. It’s a world of steely eyed winners not Sunday school teachers, although someone should tell that to whinging Webber.

    Good Luck Claire you’re going to need it!

    1. Robert says:

      You have probably attended a handful of races. You probably watch 15 or more races on TV per year.

      She GREW UP in the sport. She’s probably listened in to her father’s conversations with Bernie, Flavio, etc. for years. Go on, tell her something that you know that she doesn’t….

    2. Brendan says:

      I would somewhat disagree with that. While yes, F1 requires hard, hard negotiation and underhand tactics at times…

      For the long term security of the team, it is better to have someone who is thinking of the effects 10-15-20 years down the line rather than yet another clown with their MBA and “3 year plan”.

      1. Lee says:

        Nowhere did I suggest that they should hire someone like that. My point is that in such a uber competitive environment as F1 you only succeed by having the absolute best of the best in every position, particularly at the very head of the organisation. Such decisions are made without sentiment, with the head not the heart. Now that may well be the case with Claire, I hope it is. She may well be the best person for the job, after all she has served an apprenticeship that money can’t buy my point is that I hope she was appointed because she is the best candidate not because she’s the bosses daughter.

    3. Random 79 says:

      Robert & Brendan, +1

      Lee, less so…but kudos for wishing her luck.

  19. Irish con says:

    James this is way off topic but I only thought of it today and this is the last post.

    My question tho is why don’t f1 have the thing in moto gp where the are given 21 litres of fuel for the race and if the bike recognises that it hasn’t enough fuel for the hole race shuts the power down bit by bit to make the finish as the have no radio in moto gp. F1 is more hi tech than moto gp so surely they can come up with something similar and do away with the pathetic shambles of Lewis coming off the power 150 yards before a corner? I know you will say tho that teams will always fill the car as light as they possibly can anyways and maybe it won’t make a difference.

    1. Random 79 says:

      Whether it’s the car or the driver that slows the car down, does it make a difference?

      I think Mercedes in Malaysia was an extreme case; they were expecting rain where they could have saved some fuel, but the plan failed when the rain failed to arrive.

      In China I’ll expect we’ll see a more normal race; some conservation, but not as much.

      Even though I know the reasons why refuelling during the race was banned, I would still kind of like to see it make a return, if only to have a proper qualifying again.

      Fast Q1, followed by faster Q2, followed by bog slow Q3 is just silly.

      1. Ummmm where to begin?

        The ‘qualify on race fuel’ rule was brought in during the refulling era. Once refulling was banned, they have not had to qualify on race fuel.

        How can you have been following f1 for the last few years and not picked up on that? Even if you really *hadn’t* noticed that Q3 lap times have often been the fastest of the entire weekend over the last few years, surely last year’s controversy of Hamilton not having enough fuel and having to stop on track after q3 must have made the penny finally drop?!!!

      2. Random 79 says:

        Yep I stand corrected – not sure how I missed that.

    2. Lee says:

      Because f1 races are longer and teams want to give themselves the option of having fast and slower phases of the race depending upon strategy, tyre deg, and their rivals.

      I don’t see the difference between the bike/car artificially reducing performance in order to make the end of the race and the driver doing it by lifting off before a corner etc. Why would you remove the flexibility you have with the current arrangement by fitting the system to which you refer? The reason they do it in motogp is because they can’t manage fuel use as well as they can in f1. Just because you can doesnt mean you should.

  20. DB4Tim says:

    This is great for F1 and very good for her…..F1 needs more of her type and tensity …it needs women drivers as long as it is not Danica Patric !

  21. Racyboy says:

    According to a recent interview with Frank and Claire in F1 Racing mag, She’s grown up with F1, she loves it and she wants to give back to the team that afforded her a nice life. And apparently, she’s good at her job.

    All this talk of nepotism is an easy and lazy criticism and a bit premature.

    If she’s half the racer her dad is, then Team Willy is in good hands.
    I wish her all the best.

  22. Paddock F1 says:

    I think Williams simply need to start winning titles again so that F1 can’t do without Williams then the sponsors may come rolling in and Bernie might be a little nicer!

  23. ACx says:

    Sooooo, top personnel leave the team, as the daughter gets accelerated promotion to the top? How many promotions in how many months?

    Well, she’d better be good. Im all for the family line, especially with Williams, but, well, hmmmmm

  24. Webbster says:

    I hope Frank hasn’t put his money in a cyprus bank!

  25. Robert says:

    With Frank having been burned twice now in terms of succession planning (Adam Parr and Toto Woolf) Is there an element of a family member being the only person he can trust not to leave him?

  26. Sebee says:

    James,

    Why still the Australia podium header photo? Is the Sepang podium too awkward looking for us to stare at for 2 more weeks?

  27. Mike from Colombia says:

    She might not be the best candidate for the job, but no-one will be more genuinely concerned for the wellbeing of the team.

    There will still be a Williams at the helm of Williams…

    but no doubt there will also be an able CEO and COO beneath her doing a lot of the work.

    1. Joe Papp says:

      “but no-one will be more genuinely concerned for the wellbeing of the team” — you know, it’s just that kind of myth-making that allows nepotism to thrive in the first place. The misplaced belief that only a family member is capable of caring about the business, which is ludicrous given that the company is now a publicly traded one with a diverse ownership base.

      1. Random 79 says:

        I agree with you in principle – and I’m sure you could quote me examples until the cows come home – but I think Claire is the real deal.

        Just lately there’s been a bit too much of some F1 staff switching camps for more money; having someone who we can be sure is genuinely loyal to their team will be a refreshing change :)

      2. Joe Papp says:

        “… but I think Claire is the real deal.”

        Fair enough. I hope it works out for the team in the long-run.

        As a politically-incorrect aside, have there been any instances of male off-spring following their fathers into the sport in a team management capacity? I know of course of Todt’s progeny becoming a driver manager, but anyone being groomed to run a team? And why couldn’t Bernie’s daughters have taken jobs w/ FOM? Their presence would’ve made Martin’s grid-walk far more pleasurable! lol…

      3. Random 79 says:

        Not that I’m aware of. It seems like it’s mostly the drivers who have their sons follow in their footsteps. For my money the most successful of these was Damon Hill, but I’d also put Rosberg up there too.

        Unfortunately some second generation drivers – or maybe even most of them – seem to stumble along the way ;)

  28. Two female team bosses would be terrific for the image of the sport – I hope it happens (although I also hope that she has a big personality like Brawn and Horner!)

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