Williams family stand down following teams sale
Williams team principal Sir Frank Williams, deputy team principal Claire and CEO Mike O’Driscoll are to step down as after this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix. The announcement comes a fortnight after the team was sold to US investment firm, Dorilton Capital.
Sir Frank is one of the successful team principals and owners in the history of Formula One, with co-founder Sir Patrick Head the team has managed seven drivers’ and nine constructors’ championships. Although Sir Frank hasn’t been running the team day to day for seven years, he remained close to the team.
Ms Williams said, “With the future of the team now secured, this feels like the appropriate time for us to step away from the sport. 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.”
The team has not won a race for nine years and last won a championship in 1997. Financial losses last year led to the Williams family seeking new investment, and that in turn has led to them leaving the team to make way for new management.
The team had a great run of success in the 1980s and 1990s after winning there first Grand Prix in 1979 before Alain Jones secured the teams first drivers championship in 1980. Between 1980-1997 the team won five drivers titles and eight constructors.
Williams has also proved a proving ground for leading technical directors, including F1 managing motorsport director and technical director Ross Brawn and Red Bull’s chief technical director Adrian Newey.
Ms Williams added, “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.”
Less than a week ago, Claire Williams insisted the team would continue with “business as usual”, but less than a week later it was confirmed she will be replaced.
Williams triumphs and tragedy
The story of Williams is one of triumph and tragedy
Born during the war, Frank became hooked on racing at an early age but he soon found he wasn’t a great driver. He then found himself becoming a car dealer then a racing team in Formula Two before the pre-curser to the team entered F1 in 1969, buying a chassis from Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham.
In their second Grand Prix, the team finished on the podium and second in the US. As the team came to grow a shocking accident at Zandvoort left Piers Courage was killed after his car exploded after somersaulting off at Oost corner.
As the team reach rock bottom and the money dried up Frank would not give up on his dream. He sold his original team to Walter Wolf in 1976 before founding the current Williams team the following season.
Partnering with Sir Patrick Head the two men would build what is the most successful privateer teams in F1’s history. Based in a carpet warehouse the team managed to sign there first world champion Alan Jones and backing from Saudia.
This laid the foundations for the team to become major players in the sport, podium followed in 1978 and the following season the team took five wins. Jones then went onto secure the driver’s championship and the team back to back constructors in 1980.
Frank appeared to have everything he dreamed of, his life and future of the team would be placed in doubt following a car accident driving back from Paul Ricard in 1986. The Englishman crashed suffering injuries which left him paralysed but despite advised to turn off his life support, Lady Williams refused.
Frank returned to the sport, as the team won that and the following season’s drivers and constructors. Then would go on to dominate the sport and be a leading player through the 1990s.
Even attracting three times champion Ayrton Senna, but Senna and Frank’s dream would end with Senna’s accident at Tamburello at Imola in 1994.
Damon Hill in 1996 and Jack Villeneuve the following season remain the teams’ final champions. Since then there have been brief spells of brilliants but despite being third in 2014 and2015 the team has found itself rooted to the bottom of the sport for the first time in their history.
Red Bull to gain from ‘party mode’ ban
Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko thinks his team and Honda are set to gain from the ‘party mode’ ban. A new directive issued two weeks ago has banned special engine modes in qualifying that help to deliver them a single-lap power boost.
From this weekend the teams will be forced to run the same engine modes in both qualifying and the race. It is expected to effect Mercedes the most, but there remains scepticism about whether it will be enough to stop Mercedes lock out the front row,
There are even some suggestions that the change in engine usage will instead allow Mercedes to run with more power in the races, so it will now just stretch the advantage it has over rivals on Sunday.
Marko sees things differently, though, and reckons the changes will allow Red Bull to get closer and stop Mercedes having a big edge in important phases of the race.
Marko told Motorsport.com, “That Mercedes can drive longer with a strong mode may well be the case. But as we see it, the blatant superiority in qualifying will no longer be there. This also applies to the in and out laps around the pitstops in the race.”
“[Valtteri] Bottas suggests that there will be less overtaking, but that means they’ve been going at full throttle on every overtaking manoeuvre so far. We believe that this will bring us closer. And if everything goes well, our race pace was pretty good anyway.”
Marko also says that the change to the could hinder Renault, whose engine mode he believes is slightly above Honda. He also suggested that Mercedes having access to more power could push them over the limit in terms of fuel consumption.
Adding “After all, it’s not just that they can drive in a stronger mode for so long now. Fuel consumption also plays a role. The consumption is limited. If you drive too long in a too strong mode, you need too much fuel. There are several factors.”
250 Doctors allowed to attend Monza
The only fans which will be allowed to attend this weekend Italian Grand Prix will be 250 doctors and nurses will watch from the grandstands as guests. So far all the races this season have taken place behind closed doors.
Ferrari said the medics, who will keep socially distanced, were being invited as “a symbolic honour for their courage, sense of duty and altruism as front line workers in the fight against Covid-19.”
Italy’s current death toll from Coronavirus stands at 35,497 with 272,000 confirmed cases. The region where the race will be held, Lombardy, has had over four times the deaths of any other region in Italy, with 16,865, and over 100,000 cases, as of 14:00 GMT on Thursday.
The race after Monza is the Tuscan Grand Prix at Ferrari-owned Mugello, north of Florence, and that will be the first to admit paying spectators.
Hamilton urges people to talk about mental health
Lewis Hamilton has urged people to continue talking about mental health, saying he has had “a lot of difficult days” during the coronavirus pandemic this year.
Speaking about his time away from the sport and the extraordinary situation this season he says it been both a blessing and a curse. While they have helped him focus on relationships with those closest around him he said the relentless schedule of racing since F1 returned has been difficult to focus on anything else.
Posting to social media on Wednesday, Hamilton wrote: “There are two sides to me. First, the one you see on TV. The competitive, cut throat, hungry racer in me that comes out when I close the visor.
“When the visor is down I come alive, all my fears, insecurities and doubts are cast aside and my focus kicks in and will not break until the job is done. It feels like I get to have the superpowers I always dreamed of having, but behind the wheel.”
“Trying to find inner peace, manage time, balance work and life, finding time for family and friends, working on managing my emotions, and trying to find time for the other things I am passionate about. Like many of you, I’m just trying to be and do my best in everything.”
Hamilton says the bubble the sport is currently in can be lonely and with back to back races there is not much time for anything else but work. He is also grateful for those closest to him to for helping him to keep a balance.
Hamilton was quizzed on the post on Thursday during a press conference looking ahead to Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, he hopes it encourages others to be more open about their more difficult moments.
Saying “I think as competitors it’s not the first thing you think about doing, being open and expressing yourself. But I think it’s very important, more important than what’s happening here.”
“It’s not really about me necessarily it’s about in the world everybody’s struggling with something. It’s creating parallels you can relate to. No-one can relate to what it feels like in these Formula one cars, it’s difficult to explain the things that we are experiencing in the car.”
Hamilton believes that one of the positives of the pandemic has been the time to focus on communication and improving that between family and getting a deeper relationship with his family.
F1’s mountain to exist
Sebastian Vettel believes that the sport has a “huge mountain to climb” to still exist in ten years, as he says it needs more than planned rule changes to thrive.
Amid a fast-moving world, with coronavirus having shown how quick situations can change globally, Vettel believes that F1 must work harder to adapt to what is around it. Speaking to Motorsport.com and other media, the German warned that the sport cannot expect a rules overhaul for 2022 to sort out all its problems.
Asked where he felt F1 would be in a decade, Vettel said: “I think it’s a very interesting question. I think, first of all, I think nobody would have thought, certainly not half a year ago, of the situation that the world is in now.”
“It’s a question of what the world is going to be in 10 years? So I think it’s very difficult from that to look at Formula 1 only. I think, from my point of view, Formula 1 has a huge mountain to climb in order to still exist and still, you know, attract the fans and share emotions and passion.”
“The world is changing, the world is changing very fast. And I think Formula 1 has to more than adapt.” Vettel says that the 2022 regulation change is not enough and that the sport cannot avoid the global events, saying it will be very interesting to see where we are in 10 years
Speaking about his final weekend at Monza as a Ferrari drive, he thinks while it is a shame the tifosi not being there it will make it simple weekend to deal with as he prepares to say goodbye to Ferrari.
Warning about track limits
The FIA has continued its clamp down on track limits for the Italian Grand Prix, with a focus on the exit of the second chicane and Parabolica.
Track limits became an issue during last year’s race, and during the weekend race director Michael Masi introduced a reference to Parabolica in the notes he issued to teams. However, the subject has been further clarified for this year.
New timing loops have been added into the track at Parabolica in order to allow race control to monitor offences.
Regarding Parabolica (Turn 11), Masi wrote: “A lap time achieved during any practice session or the race by leaving the track (all four wheels over the white track edge line) on the outside of Turn 11, will result in that lap time and the immediately following lap time being invalidated by the stewards.”
Then in a reference to both Parabolica and the second chicane (Turn 5), he added: “Each time any car passes behind the kerb or crosses the white line, teams will be informed via the official messaging system.
“On the third occasion of a driver cutting behind the apex of Turn 5, and/or crossing the white line on the outside of Turn 11 during the race, he will be shown a black and white flag, any further cutting will then be reported to the stewards.”
He also said that on three occasions when drivers run wide combined they would be reported to the stewards, with drivers being judged on a case by case basis. As usual, the drivers must only re-join the track when it is safe to do so and without gaining a lasting advantage.
Asked at Spa about Monza’s “sausage” kerbs – which contributed to Alex Peroni’s spectacular F3 accident – Masi noted that loops would be introduced at Parabolica.
Saying, “With all track safety parameters, we can look and see what we can improve and learn from everything. So with regards to Monza there’s a number of sausage kerbs that are still in there.
The Weekend Ahead
This weekend is going to be dominated off the track by the Williams story, as we reported today the team has been sold and both Claire and Sir Frank are standing down. It’s an end of an era, the last family-owned team leaving the sport and it’s unlikely we will see the likes of the team again.
The big thing to watch this weekend is qualifying, we have a new directive which bans the special engine modes in qualifying that help deliver them a single-lap power boost. We need to watch to see how this affects the teams, but I don’t think there will be anything major changing the order.
Mercedes you need to say are going to be the favourites given what we have seen this season, but the question is can Valtteri Bottas slow down Lewis Hamilton? Next weekend, marks the halfway point and Bottas needs to start making in roads soon or Hamilton is going to walk away with the title.
Ferrari know this weekend is going to be tough, I don’t see them really even challenging for points unless there is some miracle. They are going to struggle with straight line speed, but it’s a circuit where you need downforce and engine power.
The midfield teams have been strong this season, with Ferrari’s struggles you have to say that the battle for best of the rest is going to be again between McLaren, Racing Point and Renault. Lando Norris was the big loser in Spa with his late technical issues.
You can join us for LIVE coverage of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix via Twitter @FormulaOneVault starting with FP1 Friday from 10:45 CEST / 09:45 BST, Qualifying 14:45/13:45 and forward race coverage 14:40/13:40 lights out 15:10 / 14:10