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GP Week : Issue 217
F1 >>> BUsinEss F1, but its title-winning days are little more than a distant memory now. Williams last won the championship in 1997 and just a decade later it had slipped to fourth in the standings. The worst was yet to come. The team’s results hit a record low in 2011 when it finished in ninth place with just five points. Two years later it did no better but took four decisive steps to turn its performance around. The first came in March when Sir Frank’s daughter Claire was promoted from marketing director into the role of deputy team principal. She knows the team from the ground up and soon put this knowledge to good use. Three months later she was joined on the board by Williams’ new chief executive Mike O’Driscoll, the skilled former managing director of luxury car manufacturer Jaguar. To boost Williams’ chances on track its existing young driver Valtteri Bottas was paired with the more experienced Felipe Massa from Ferrari. O’Driscoll also made a significant appointment to Williams’ engineering department in July 2013 when Pat Symonds, who has worked on four championship-winning F1 cars, became the team’s chief technical officer. It was too late for Symonds to have an impact on the 2013 car so he instead focussed his attention on the following year. This offered a greater opportunity for improvement due to the introduction of new regulations which replaced F1’s 2.4 -litre V8 engines with 1.6-litre V6 turbos. It levelled the playing field as none of the teams had experience of the new V6. Williams chose to get its engines from Mercedes and it turned out to be a shrewd move. Williams finished 2014 in third place with Massa getting on the podium three times whilst Bottas scored six. All that eluded the team was a victory but that may not be far off. “I’m absolutely sure that Williams can win races this year. I think they are the biggest challenger to Mercedes because they have got the same sort of engine,” says Ecclestone. “Claire is doing a good job and they are all doing a good job. Its success is down to staff. People. I think they have made quite a few changes but basically it is staff.” Williams’ success has had a noticeable effect on its bottom line as the team has secured more new sponsorship than any other in F1 over the past year. Its tally of new partners comes to an estimated $54.5m and includes Brazilian oil company Petrobras, Unilever’s deodorant brand Rexona and British Telecom which signed up earlier this month. They are crowned by drinks brand Martini which became the team’s title sponsor in 2014. The development work on F1 cars is done the year before they race and Williams’ accounts for 2013 show a net profit of £12m on revenue of £130.4m which is 32% less than the budget of its British rival McLaren. Williams also benefits from transparency as it was floated on Frankfurt’s junior exchange in 2011. A total of 20% is listed with 3% held by an employee trust, 5% in the hands of former director Toto Wolff and 20% split equally between Head and American investor Brad Hollinger. The remaining 52% is owned by Sir Frank so it is still essentially a family business. It gives sponsors comfort that their money is not being absorbed by a multi-national owner which doesn’t really need it. "I'm absolutely sure that Williams can win races this year. I think they are the biggest challenger to Mercedes ..." 37 GPWEEK.com // 37 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: