F1 Winter Break
Why Williams had to look after itself
Why Williams had to look after itself
Posted By:   |  26 May 2009   |  6:03 pm GMT  |  38 comments

I posted here on Sunday morning that I had heard Williams were going to break ranks with the other Formula 1 teams and put in an entry for the 2010 season this week and they have done that.

I’ve been thinking about this, about why they have done it, what it will do to FOTA unity and where it leaves the other teams.

Williams have become the team closest to the FIA in recent times. In part this is down to a personal relationship between Williams CEO Adam Parr and Max Mosley. Both trained as barristers and I think they understand each other as a result. I also think Adam knows how to read Max pretty well. On a more basic level Williams need to stay close to the FIA because all they do is race F1 cars, they don’t sell energy drinks or road cars. So if they didn’t put an entry in for 2010 what would they do with themselves and their 500+ employees? They also stand to benefit from budgets coming down to £40 million. At that level they will not only be able to survive but to make a profit. And the technical department reckons that with many teams scaling down, they will do the best job on that level of money.

Williams signed a contract back in 2005, shortly after Ferrari, to stay with the FIA and with FOM, rather than join the manufacturers’ breakaway series being proposed at the time. The contract they signed then obliges them to race in F1 until the end of 2010. I don’t know what time frame is in the agreement Ferrari signed at the time, but Bernie Ecclestone referred to it the other day when he implied that he would sue them if they didn’t enter next year.

The question now is, will the other teams who signed up in 2005 also now be obliged to put an entry in for 2010? These teams are Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Force India (was Midland at the time). It is unlikely that their deals are all the same as Williams, because Ecclestone tends to like doing different deals with everyone.

For example, Frank Williams said on Friday that he knew Ferrari’s deal paid them more money than Williams but he did not know that they had a right of veto over the rules.

It has been reported in the last couple of days that the other teams within FOTA are angry with Williams because they signed a collective letter saying that they would not enter the championship. This isn’t quite true. They refused to sign that letter, but they did sign a second, modified letter, which did not commit them to that collective action.

Williams have painful memories of a time when they didn’t put in an entry; in 1993 they missed the deadline for entering the championship – a championship incidentally they went on to win with Alain Prost – and there was some pain to be taken over that.

Judging from the noises coming out of Toyota at the moment, governance and transparency are their big bugbears, more than budget caps. Toyota and Ferrari have been working closely together at all levels and if Toyota are to leave the sport, I’m sure that they will say that it is because of the governance.

There is another meeting of FOTA this week, so the story will move on quite a bit before the deadline for entry on Friday.

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I understand why Williams would be the first of the existing teams to put their entry in for 2010, but I don't understand why they had to do it this early. The deadline is May 29 to my understanding, and I assume the FOTA meeting is before the deadline. By making their entry this early, they weaken FOTA's bargaining power, in the case something is worked with the FIA on before the deadline.

They did not have anything significant to gain by entering this early, but they could lose the respect and support of the other FOTA teams. The only reason I can think of is that they are kissing up to FIA or getting some benefit from them...


I thought it was pretty obvious, CVC is linked to both FOM and RBS. RBS is going to influence Williams to keep the CVCs and consequently RBSs investment in F1 as solvent as much as possible.


Doubly interesting with the Toyota lump in the back of the Williams - query whether Toyota are definitely pulling out and Williams have got their eyes on another (Cosworth? Mercedes?) engine?


If Williams are in for next year... but may be Toyota pull out at the end of this year, what engine will Williams F1 use? Cosworth? Or a Toyota engine still?


Thank for this analysis.

I read somewhere that there was a FOTA meeting today. Is there any news of what happened there?

The more I learn about the governance of F1 and the different deals made with different people, the more horrified I feel. Surely this has to come to an end...



I do not agree with you. I think that Frank williams is praying that all the manufacture and the big teams, including ferrari, toyota..etc... quit at this end of the season and he could be NO1 among the New teams next year.

Well i agree that Frank has no other business than F1, so he would be praying that no deal is reached between FIA and the teams apposing the budget cap.


Cool analysis... Makes you wonder though - on the one hand Williams have retained a certain enduring 'purity' by existing solely to race. However, they've left themselves spectacularly exposed to the whims and vagaries of their chosen racing series; they can claim a singular purpose certainly, but they're also singularly over a barrel with their trousers down if they find themselves at loggerheads with the regulators, as they have simply zero leverage. Even if they were still winning championships and had coffers replete with sponsor cash, how could they seriously pull a poker face if they chose to fight the FIA on anything, given that the federation need simply say 'fine, leave then guys...' in order to call their bluff.

Sadly, they're only two longterm options are to a) form or join an alternate series where they actually own a true share of freehold as it were; equity and governance. Or b) do as so many teams have done, and properly embrace business as more than merely a means of funding the on track exploits, and instead use their engineering provenance and skills base to create lasting, diversified revenue streams that could both bolster their budgets and provide a notional parallel raison d'etre they could draw on were they to find themselves at war with the FIA again...

In hindsight one supposes that had they built on the Renault road car connection some 15-20 years ago they could have had a multi-tiered empire by now, rather than being total exposure to racing. Cos sadly it's not as though their purity has delivered many triumphs of late...


One can understand why Williams has made the move to apply for the 2010 champiomshio, due their existence only to race F1 cars, etc. but i think they are gambling a bit on their name and their heritage.

If Ferrari goes and maybe others and some kind of F1 survives they will be there to pick up the pieces and most probably their biggest rival could be Brawn GP so at least they will be second in a championship. That championship will always be looked as a joke but the records will hold for an F1 championship no matter what.

I don`t agree with their position, if they agreed at some point to be members of FOTA they should be united, at the end the budget cap and the rules are just an appendix of the real deal of who makes the rules and why there is a dictator in a sport where the teams and promoters practically don`t have a valid vote. Also after this we will be back to the revenues topic, that`s for sure.

I love F1 it runs on my vains, i ove the intrigue, politics and that mistique of untouchable and unreachable. I loved last season even if in this one there is more excitement in quaifying and in the race, but thruth be told the tyre regulations makes it hard to swallow, when you see a gap of 15 secs maybe come to a deficit o 2 secs in a matter of 7 laps or so, there is no enjoyment on that at least for a single fan.


Pretty sure I read the agreement was up to and including 2008 but was extended for 2 years on a nod and a codicil.
As I posted in the other thread Reactions ...(still waiting mod) This does no credit to Williams and they need to leave FOTA, what's the point in having them as a member if they fold on the first show of the cards?


I don't know how anyone can say that F1 is dull! I find all the off track shenanigans fascinating.

James, don't you think that Brawn GP will have to sign soon in that case? They, like Williams, don't have any other reason to be on the grid or anything else to sell except sponsorship on their cars, and I am sure that they will not be able to do that without having a future plan.


always will be a Williams fan, each year my hopes rise and then after first qually i slump into my arm chair and promise myself they will come good next season.

Team lotus are we going to see a come back for the once great name ???



So for Williams, USF1 and Campos who have signed up to enter the 2010 championship, what regulations do they believe they have to comply to be able to put a compliant car on the grid? (budget cap/no budget cap?)

What provision (if any) is there for them to pull out should the regulations be dramatically changed?

I'm sure Peter Windsor mentioned something about the Cosworth engine rpm and there was some point around the engine being designed to rev at 18,000 or 20,000 rpm and the implications to this (and cost) of changing the redline should the regulations change...Moving goal posts and all that!


I've always seen Williams as an arrogant team. In the past they have been getting rid of their world champion drivers after they've won it. then they got rid of their best engineers. Lastly, they had a falling out with BMW. I am not at all surprised that they are not with the organization that is there to protect their interests-FOTA. They seem to always be making bad selfish decisions. Unless there will be an ideological change in their organization, they will never be back on top.

Bring Back Jacques

Love your site - best F1 commentary available.

How has Mr. Mosley managed to sidestep the issue of his personal conduct bringing the sport into disrepute? Would team principals and drivers be shown the same latitude in similar circumstances?


Williams core business is Formula 1 and therefore they cannot afford not to enter. If they have a contract to compete in 2010 they also cannot afford to lose any money in court.

That they entered this early is both a sign to the FIA and the other teams that they expect that a compromise will (or must) be reached.

I expect teams like Force India and Brawn GP (and even McLaren) to follow, because Formula 1 is their core business too and they cannot afford to wait after the deadline. They don't have any other options if a breakaway series won't occur and they are not in F1.

Other teams like Ferrari, Toyota, Renault and even Red Bull can afford to wait. They have other options if they won't be in F1.


On the BBC it reports,

"At the weekend meeting, it was agreed in principle to delay introducing a 45m euro (£39.6m) budget cap until 2011, while Mosley has made other concessions to the teams on governance."

It's not clear to me who 'agreed' to delay the introduction of the budget cap. Was it just the teams or the FIA as well.

If the FIA has agreed to delay introduction then the new teams that have joined, or want to join, might see this as a real problem as they now have to find big bucks for one season.

Can anyone clarify ?


Frank will be really [annoyed] [mod] at ferraris Veto over the rules. Nobody grudges ferrari the extra revenues they receive beacause they generate a large chunk of cash for F1, but that technical veto clause is unbelievable.
Williams will be the big winners over this debacle.


Interesting how parts of Bernie's contracts are valid and others are not when it suits him.

How Bernie had any say in the rules is a mystery, he is not the governing body yet when it suits him he can apparently "influence" both the FIA and the teams

If I were in FOTA I would insist that any new "Concorde" type agreement was the same for all teams and that it was published so that Bernie could not twist and modify it. Of course as James said no two teams have the same contract, so Bernie can avoid a united front in opposition to any common cause. (He is more cunning than a very cunning thing)

(Remember that Concorde was taken out of service after it caught fire and crashed, according to service engineers it looked beautiful but was a bugger to work on, because so much was crammed and twisted and crushed into a very confined space)


What will williams do if Toyota pull out. Bang goes their engine supplier! Will this be another backward step for them, where they have to get another awfull engine like Judd or Cosworth??


I think Frank Williams is just being pragmatic.
F1 is bigger than Ferrari, some teams will leave F1, others will join. Williams have said they're staying.
There comes a point when the teams should just have to get on with racing - after all it's a better spectator sport than watching Ferrari machinations in and around the courtroom.


Frank Williams took a gamble back in 2004/2005. He did not sell the team to BMW, and instead took the gamble that the current manufacture dominated era in F1 would be temporary.

Frank has been in Motorsport for some time, and will have seen countless series 'boom' and then 'bust' on the whims of the manufactures.

He either needs the manufactures to leave F1, or (even better) to have their budget advantage cut in order to get his team back to the front. Otherwise he will struggle to stay in the game.

At the moment there is only one F1 series for Williams to enter....


well, as for FOTA unity following this decision, it has now been widely reported that Williams have been suspended from FOTA... accordign to Frank Williams, a regrettable but understandable situation


Well then, if Ferrari pulls out then maybe their money should go to Team Williams so they can pull themselves out of the pit and try to win some races even thought Nico seems to have the speed during practice.


Hi James it would appear reading between the lines that Toyota have never really been accepted to f1 whether this is because it is not from Europe i don't know. It would seem that most media have undermined there entry in some form or another. Is it that for some reason they are not welcome. Howet has said on nemerous occassions that they intend to stay. It would only be for the same reasons as honda, MONEY that they would leave.
Why do you think they want out.
Its funny how there sponsorship money is ok but because they choose to go about their business a bit different they get knocked.
Will this be the same for the American outfits entry as they to will not be from Europe.


"Toyota bugbears are at the moment are governance and transparency with the FIA". That's rich! What about the governance and transparency amongst the teams themselves? They did not even know that Ferrari had a technical veto?! Why don't they all put their cards or contracts on the table and seek a fair, balanced and equaly racing and contractual platform amongst each other.

I used to be and in some ways still am a big fan of Ferrari, but I'm struggling to retain any respect for them. In fact I'm appauled and disgusted at their attitude. All their success has seriously been put into question for me when you concider the uneven playing field between the teams.

F1's credibility is sadly draining away. I'm shocked that any officialdom would conceed to giving too any one team a veto or extra money, in any aspect to stay in the sport. Would this be construde as a bribe and would this be concidered fair or legal in the real world?


I agree, the europeans think they are high and mighty and deserve it all. I hope the American team can go in there and show them.


Toyota and Panasonic (their main sponsor) lost billions last year and in the first quarter of this year. So yes, money would be the main reason to quit F1.

Even without a budgetcap Toyota probably won't stay long in F1, except may be for a buy-out like Honda and (as is rumoured) Renault.


Actually a reply to lower-case david but his post has no 'reply' button...

The loan facilities are with Barclays, not RBS. You can get a copy of the annual accounts for Williams Grand Prix Engineering ltd (company 01297497) from the Companies House website for £1 via digital download and see that for yourself if you wish.


lower-case david

anyone know what bank has been lending williams their working finance for the last coupla years?

it has been these loan facilities, and some prize money advanced from bernie, that have been keeping the lights-on down grove way as the team continues to make a loss.

i thought it was all RBS, (y'know, all signed off, no problemmo at all, part of that whole fred goodwin pet project, fantasy-F1, hang about with his hero JYS thing that he had going on) ... but i could be wrong.

anyone seen the books?

The Flying Finn

I think Williams signing up early is very significant as it puts pressure on the others to act and break ranks with FOTA, its now musical chairs as supposedly nobody wants to be left behind with the new entries already filed. I suspect that once the floodgate is opened by Williams, others like Mclaren and Brawn will sign and the tide is turned. Frank probably knows that FOTA and Toyota are not going to be around much longer.


They were going to enter anyway, so brinkmanship would have been a pointless exercise. If they only agreed to sign the modified letter the other teams knew this so why prolong it?

Williams did the right thing by putting their cards on the table IMO.


I have always thought that after the departure of BMW FW put his eyes on having a closer relationship with Toyota. I think FW has smelled for quite sometime the potential debacle of Toyota as F1 Team (spending a lot of money with little success for quite few years) and he is probably selling them the idea of bidding for success in F1 as an engine supplier only. This approach has proved to be succesful for Williams and for Honda/Renault in the 80s and 90s.
Toyota in the other did the same in F Indy as an engine supplier. This could still bring Toyota a lot of exposure and success in F1 (still the pinnacle of motorsport) with a much lower budget than running a complete F1 team


Even if Toyota as a constructor pull out they might well continue to provide engines. I've thought for a long time that they should put their weight behind Williams a.n.other small team and perhaps even take a small stake in said team. They have been on a hiding to nothing with having their own team. They ought to follow the examples of Mercedes and BMW and take advantage of existing proven expertise.


Very good point. But as Brawn has shown this year you can make a late engine change and still be very competitive..


Frank Williams is a racer and in the sport because he likes it. He is not there for business needs. I would say that Williams gives a lot more to the sport than Toyota and its better that they remain in the sport rather than Toyota.
Frank Williams needs to look after his team and do what he wants to do.
With regards to FOTA unity take that at face value. The boards at BMW, Renault and Toyota certainly won't be thinking about that and teams like Williams when they decide whether to stay in F1 or not.
I have been following the sport since 1980 and during that time manufacturers have come and gone and in certain years there has been very little interest from these companies. Trust me, though, the lack of manufacturers had no diminishing effect on the spectacle.
Most F1 fans follow drivers rather than teams. Take Spain as an example. Before Alonso became successful the Spanish GP barely mustered a crowd of 50000 on raceday. Now it enjoys an audience of over 100000 (even 130000 when Alonso was reigning world champion). Okay Ferrari has a big pull but here's a good example of where a driver's popularity holds sway. Look at the British GP in the last couple of years. The increased interest has nothing to do with manufacturers....


Interesting theory, but RBS' investment is a sponsorship and that ends this season.


I would have thought so, yes, but they are not contractually bound, as Williams are. That said, they have a lot to gain from the proposed rules for 2010. A dramatic reduction in costs is built into their business plan.


Well they are aiming for the capped rules at present but fully expect some changes in the coming days..but they have to get on with it.

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