It’s the end of an era at Williams as the team announced Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams is to step down from her role after this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, with the Williams family ending their involvement in the team Sir Frank founded in 1977.
Sir Frank marked 50 years as an F1 Team Principal last year, having run two teams in that time, the latter of which has gone on to win seven drivers’ titles and nine constructors’ championships. His daughter Claire took over the day-to-day running of the team in 2013.
“It is with a heavy heart that I am stepping away from my role with the team. I had hoped to continue my tenure long into the future and to preserve the Williams family’s legacy into the next generation,” said Claire.
“However, our need to find inward investment earlier this year due to a number of factors, many of which were outside of our control, resulted in the sale of the team to Dorilton Capital. 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 Formula 1. 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.”
Claire has been in Formula 1 her whole life, coming to races as a kid to watch her father run the team and then embarking on a career in communications, first at the Silverstone circuit, then with Williams in 2002.
Eight years later, she became Head of Communications, before taking Sir Frank’s place on the board in 2012 as the Williams family representative. A year after, she was named Deputy Team Principal, essentially taking over the day to day running of the team.
She helped turn Williams’s fortunes around, following up ninth in 2013 with two successive third-place finishes in 2014 and 2015 respectively. A brace of fifths were followed by two of their worst ever seasons – last in 2018 and 2019, with the team struggling in a tricky financial climate.
A rebound plan was actioned last year, including a restructuring of departments, and the results have been positive, the team now back in the pack and able to fight wheel-to-wheel with their rivals.
However, in order to take the next step, the Williams family realised they needed significant investment, and that led to a process which ultimately results in the sale of the team to an American private investment firm.
And while the new owners were keen for Claire to stay on in her role and run the team on a day to day basis, she has decided to take the opportunity for a fresh start and take some time away from Formula 1.
“With the future of the team now secured, this feels like the appropriate time for us to step away from the sport,” said Claire. “As a family, we have always prioritised Williams. We have demonstrated that by our recent actions with the Strategic Review process and we believe now is the right time to hand over the reins and give the new owners the opportunity to take the team into the future.
“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.
“We are greatly appreciative of Dorilton’s encouragement to continue, but in them we know the team will be in good hands and the Williams name will live on. 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.
“But mostly, we would like to thank our team. People who have worked at Williams in the past and present. They are the true warriors of this team and have made it what it is and we wish them well. Formula 1 has been our life for so long and now it’s time for a new chapter in our lives to begin.”
Matthew Savage, Chairman of Dorilton Capital and Williams Grand Prix Engineering, added: “We fully respect the very tough decision of Claire and the Williams family to step away from the team and the business after securing new resources for its future.
“Claire’s achievement in sustaining Williams Racing’s heritage, relevance and commitment to innovation in a difficult environment since taking charge in 2013 has been nothing short of monumental.
“She has also been hugely instrumental in shaping a more level technical and financial playing field for F1, which will help to ensure the team’s return to the front of the grid in seasons to come. We are proud to carry the Williams name into the next exciting phase for the sport and we thank Sir Frank, Claire and the Williams family for the opportunity to be part of this great British brand.”