Williams admits ’guilt’ in key team change
"Believe me, we are not hiding our heads in the sand"
Claire Williams has admitted she was responsible for a change in Williams’ team structure that resulted in the once-great outfit’s 2019 crisis.
She said that during Williams’ "four good seasons", including third place finishes in the constructors’ championship in 2014 and 2015, she made the change.
"In order to preserve our results and even make progress, we changed something in the internal structure and it turned out to be a mistake," she told France’s Auto Hebdo.
"It was my initiative and I admit my guilt."
The result is clear to see in 2019, with Robert Kubica saying that in Australia and Bahrain, he is little more than a "passenger" in the Mercedes-powered car.
Williams said: "Believe me, we are not hiding our heads in the sand. We know where we are and what you need in order to win.
"But it’s a long process."
Indeed, it is not just a performance crisis at Williams, but a cultural one.
"We are trying to independently produce as many parts as possible, and we have 620 people working for us, which is a lot for the structure we have," Claire said.
"To create the Williams of the future while preserving our culture is the task we are facing now."
One part of that has been to send Paddy Lowe on leave, even though the highly respected Briton had been lured away from Mercedes to lead Williams back to the top.
"I don’t want to answer that question at the moment," Williams said.
"It’s very difficult for me to talk about Paddy and his role in this."
She will say that other engineers have picked up the slack for the now absent Lowe, adding: "I trust them completely and believe that we are moving in the right direction.
"Patrick Head has returned to us as a consultant and to support the engineers in such a difficult period.
"He has so much experience and has the sort of character that they really listen to him. His advice will be very valuable," Claire Williams said.
Part of the problem, she admits, is that while the subsidiary Williams Advanced Engineering once generated income for the team, that is no longer the case.
"It was created in 2010 to support the racing team and in response to the drop in sponsors’ interest. But it now contributes little to the financing of the team.
"Our funding is almost entirely dependent on sponsors and F1 income," she said.
So Williams warmly welcomes Liberty Media’s efforts to better distribute the revenue and drive down costs, especially via a budget cap.
"Everything that is now being discussed is moving in the direction that we need," she said.
And so, Williams says, the famous team her father established is not giving up.
"We’ve been racing for 42 years because it is our passion," she said.
"Yes, we are at the very back of the grid now, but I know that returning to the positions we deserve is only a matter of time. I would not be talking to you now if I wasn’t sure of that."