Sir Frank and Claire Williams to leave roles at Williams F1 team
Famous F1 family to depart the team after this weekend's Italian GP after 43 years at the helm and total of 16 world championships
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 03/09/20 9:49pm
Sir Frank Williams and his daughter Claire will leave their roles at the Williams team – and step away from Formula 1 - after this weekend's Italian GP.
The historic chapter-closing move comes a fortnight after the famous Grove outfit was sold to US investment firm, Dorilton Capital.
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The Grove team will continue to run under the Williams name into its new era, but will no longer be run by the family.
Sir Frank, who founded the outfit with Sir Patrick Head in 1977, has been one of the most successful team principals/owners in history with seven drivers' and nine constructors' championships.
Claire has been in day-to-day control since 2013 in the role of deputy team principal. She first joined the team in an official capacity in 2002.
She said the new owners had encouraged them to continue on but they had decided it was the right time to step away, having secured the team's future via the sale and signed the new Concorde Agreement.
"With the future of the team now secured, this feels like the appropriate time for us to step away from the sport," said Claire Williams.
"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.
I wouldn't be where I am today without Frank and Claire. They gave me my shot in F1, like they have done for so many drivers, engineers, mechanics and countless others over the years. Thank you for everything. We'll keep driving like hell to honour the Williams name.— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) September 3, 2020
"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."
Williams have finished bottom of the standings in each of the past two seasons and are the only outfit without a point so far in 2020.
Williams said she was stepping away from her role "with a heavy heart", having hoped to continue the family lineage before a number of factors - including the impact of the coronavirus - forced them to consider an outright sale earlier this year.
"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," she said.
"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."
Williams leaves lasting F1 legacy
Sir Frank, now 78, first became involved in F1 in 1969 and his first venture, Frank Williams Racing Cars, saw him run customer Brabham chassis.
The current team - Williams Grand Prix Engineering - was formed in 1977 with Williams running the operation and Head serving as technical director.
Originally operating out of an old carpet warehouse in Oxfordshire, Williams won their first race with Clay Regazzoni at the 1979 British GP and their first drivers' title the following year with Australia's Alan Jones.
A road car accident in March 1986 resulted in Williams sustaining a spinal cord injury that left him tetraplegic.
Williams continued at the helm of the team and they won a total of seven world titles in the 1980s - four constructors' and three drivers' - before adding nine more between 1992 and 1997.
Although Jacques Villeneuve's championship in 1997 remains their last title triumph, the team won races with BMW power in the early 2000s. But an eight-year victory drought followed from 2004 before Pastor Maldonado took an unlikely victory at the 2012 Spanish GP, the team's last success.
A switch to Mercedes engines for the start of F1's hybrid-turbo era coincided with strong third-place constructors' finishes in 2014 and 2015, but they have slipped backwards since then and finished bottom of the standings in each of the past two seasons.
But, despite the recent difficulties, the team and family have remained hugely popular and admired.
"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," added Claire Williams.
"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."