Is it also time to change at ‘dead’ Williams team?

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When McLaren parted company with Eric Boullier, most fans felt it was a move long in the making. I’ve said many times on our podcasts that it is difficult to fire the whole team when you are performing poorly so most times, owners fire the coach. They did that before with Ron Dennis and Martin Whitmarsh. Fred Vasseuer parted ways with Renault. Paddy Lowe from Mercedes. Stefano Domenicali from Ferrari.

Yesterday, Mercedes made some management shuffles in lead positions as we mentioned here. When Bouliier parted company, I asked a simple question. McLaren, a historic British team, is facing serious performance issues in Formula 1 but there is also another team struggling as well and that’s Williams F1.

Williams have shuffled their own management in key areas with Paddy Lowe and rob Smedley joining, Dirk de Beer leaving etc. The question I asked last week was, is anyone going to ask about the coach in this team? The coach is the daughter of founder Sir Frank Williams, Claire Williams.

Let’s be honest, parting company with the owner’s offspring is not a likely prospect. However, with stories regarding shorts during a race weekend and a serious lack of performance, has the team reached a point where it needs to make a significant shake up? Can they cure their ills in 2018 and turn this season around? According to Former Williams driver, Jacques Villeneuve, that may not be possible. In fact, he thinks they need a major change.

“No. The team is dead.

“There is no management. There was a choice back then [in 2013], you either put the heiress or the heir [in charge].

“And they put Claire instead of Jonathan [who runs Williams’s heritage division].

“Big mistake. Obviously, just look where the team is at now.”

“You have to admit that you’re screwed,” said Villeneuve, who left Williams a year after winning the title. “I don’t know how it can recover. I just don’t see it.

“If you have two drivers without experience, that won’t help. Not in a team like this.”

It may not be a popular subject and at a time when F1 is trying to promote more women in the sport, it would be a difficult decision. That didn’t seem to stop Sauber from parting company with Monisha Kaltenborm, however, and in the end, the revenue may not be able to sustain the current trajectory the leadership is working on. Ultimately it is about having the right person in charge of the right people to make the right choices.

Having two young drivers at the team isn’t helping matters either and with Lance Stroll’s family heavily invested in the team, there is very little they can do. Sergey Sirotkin brings significant money too and again, their hands are somewhat tied here. One might argue that if leadership had made different or better decisions, they may not have had to be so heavily leveraged in paying drivers. They do have arguably the best engine on the grid and should have been able to be hunting podiums. Believe me, that is much easier said than done so I understand those critiques may not be as fair as they could be.

The team are working with material constraints that are very challenging to overcome but by comparison, so are Force India and they have made much better use of their Mercedes engine supply. As much as I like Claire Williams, it is a tough situation indeed but do you fire the team or the coach? What do you think about Williams F1’s issues and JV’s comments?

Hat Tip: autosport

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I think they’ve put themselves into a hole too deep to ever dig out of, regardless of who’s in charge. They’ve stopped looking for competitive drivers and instead become two seats for sale to rich brats who think they’re racing drivers. I understand that’s a business decision, and one they surely weren’t happy about making, but I think it’s going to define the team for as long as they compete in the sport. As you mention, they’ve already in deep with the drivers financially, and with Martini gone as primary sponsor after this year, the financial woes are only going… Read more »

Alianora La Canta

If the team is dead, change is pointless.

If it is not dead, it might need less change than it appears. The current direction is wrong, but it’s hard to say which direction is right given that the future is up in the air from several different angles.

However, I think we have not seen the last of Williams yet.


I have the perfect solution: Put two men in charge of the F1 team – one as head of the drivers and performance, the other in charge of the whole design and organization of the team.
And make those two actual racers. Okay, not current racers, but F1 current era racers who know all there is to know about how and what the cars are supposed to do.
Suggestions: Kimi if Ferrari release him, Kubica because he’s there and knows what is wrong already.


Oh, and fire the two drivers. Get Mercedes to get you Ocon and whoever is their #1 in F2


My logic here? Eastern Airlines were dead and buried- and then they hired Frank Borman – if you can fly anything AND you flew to the moon and back – you know flying. In 18 months he turned that company around.

Tim C

It is sad to see a team with a legacy like Williams flounder around at the back of the grid. Although I agree they could do much better with driver selection, there issues are multiple in nature . . . drivers, engineering talent, money, leadership, etc. I still think they can pull this thing out of the grave, but it isn’t going to happen overnight. It took years to get to this point and it’s ptobably going to take years to turn it around. I think the days of Ross Braun and Braun GP are gone.

Brad Purvis

Every interview you see with Claire she talks about Williams being a family. I have tremendous respect for Claire and Williams; however, a racing team is not a “family” and it does not need a mother or a sister (your choice), it needs a leader. Without leadership an organization fails. Every time. Find a leader and the rest will fall in place.


Yep, leadership is key. Silly to call it a ‘family’ when both of your drivers are paying to be there.


The only thing dead at Williams is Jacques Villeneuve. He’s actually been banned from visiting the Williams area at any race. A great driver back in his day, although he was always an annoying media whore who fell out of grace with almost everybody ending his career in mediocre teams. If he only had the sense to keep his cheap digs to himself he might have had offers at top teams, considering how talented as a driver he was. But he’s the kind of guy that breaks the harmony in a team. Hasn’t changed all that much, sad to say.… Read more »


I don’t get it. Do we all have no memory? Williams was third in the 2015 Constructor’s championship with BOT and MAS 5th & 6th in the Driver’s. McLaren has not been able to pull off that kind of performance for a much longer time. You’d think they were just horrible for years and years and years with the way that people are speaking of them. They very recently started to dig themselves out of a hole and were looking to be making good headway only to make a wrong turn. It happens. I’d say McLaren’s slump is far more… Read more »


Actually, it was two weeks ago, while McLaren were denying that Boullier is out, that folks were wondering why it was so silent around Williams when they were doing such a crap job compared to McLaren… I guess it’s all in your point of view.


They should swallow their pride and follow the Haas, and Sauber plug and play strategies, and of course show some guts and hire some good drivers.


I get the family thing, but has Patrick Head no offspring?

jiji the cat

there slide downhill, for me started when they prioritised pay drivers over employed drivers. Obviously they have built a business model around this, however its not working. As a posted about a month ago, yeah Claire has to go, bring in someone experienced that can pull the team together, and tac. They need a 180 degree turn. Can they do it?

Tom Firth

I disagree with JV. The team has been in decline since really 2004, you could even argue a little earlier than that but the point it happened long before Claire’s promotion. Since then, the only time the team has seen any real improvement despite countless rotations of upper management and drivers is when they’ve gained something out of a major tech regulation change. Be that double diffusers, Pirelli tires causing a bit of a monopoly or more recently with Mercedes engines from 2014 until rivals caught and swallowed them up again back down the pack. Why would a change in… Read more »


Sean Bratches wouldn’t allow Claire to be fired because his wife (the woman who told him we aren’t allowed to have grid girls anymore) would be upset.


An idea that occurred to me over the weekend is that Alsonso could be the perfect fit to dig Williams out of this hole. Perhaps Williams could lure him over without breaking the bank by offering him the flexibility to miss a few Grand Prix to go race Indycar and WEC events. Alonso would give them an experienced driver to help improve the car, and a mentor to try to develop Stroll into a more legit future #1 for them. And Alonso dragging a bad car to some points finishes like he is with McLaren would go a huge way… Read more »


I don’t think they can afford Alonso, but I think you’re right. They need an experienced driver to tell them “this bit is sh*t, fix it!”. I think they’d be more likely to get Kubica in the driving seat. However his problem is that the car needs adapting to suit him, so how many problems that he finds are from the car and how many from the adaptions that they make?