WILLIAMS could be out of Formula 1 by 2021, or with part- or full-time new owners as financial issues continue to mount for the iconic team.

It lost close on $20 million last year. 

Williams Grand Prix Holding (WGPH) says it is considering selling a minority or majority stake in the British team as it pursues a “new strategic direction” to ensure it is  “well positioned to take advantage of Formula 1’s new era which will begin in 2021.”

Williams finished 10th in the constructors’ championship for two successive seasons, which has had negatively affected the commercial revenues received from Formula 1. 

There has also been a decline in sponsorship while the Coronavirus pandemic has forced a delay to the start of the 2020 season, which in turn has further increased financial pressure on the business.

“As part of this new strategic direction, the board is undertaking a review of all the various strategic options available to the company,” Williams said in a statement.

“Options being considered include, but are not limited to, raising new capital for the business, a divestment of a minority stake in WGPH, or a divestment of a majority stake in WGPH including a potential sale of the whole company.

“While no decisions have been made regarding the optimal outcome yet, to facilitate discussions with interested parties, the company announces the commencement of a ‘formal sale process’.”

Williams says it has appointed joint financial advisers to assist with the review and be a point of contact for interested parties.

WGPH confirmed it was in “preliminary discussions with a small number of parties regarding a potential investment in the company.

“There can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which any offer will be made.”

However, despite facing “a number of challenges’ it said the racing team remained funded and ready to resume racing in 2020. 

“The WGPH board believes that the strategic review and formal sale process is the right and prudent thing to do in order to consider a full range of options and put the Formula 1 team in the best possible position for the future.”

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The news came on the day Williams announced financial results for the year ending 2019, reporting a loss of £13 million, ($24 million) down from a profit of £16 million ($29.5 million) in the previous year.

Group revenue declined to £160.2 million ($295.6 million) in 2019, from £176.5 million ($326 million) in 2018.

Regarding the Formula 1 team, it had a loss of £10.1 million ($18.6 million) compared to a profit of £16 million ($29.5 million) in 2018.

Williams also ended its relationship with title sponsor Rokit and major sponsor Rok Drinks.

“The financial results for 2019 reflect the recent decline in competitiveness of the F1 operation and the consequent reduction in commercial rights income” chief executive Officer, Mike O’Driscoll, said.

“After four years of very solid performance in the FIA F1 Constructors’ Championship during which we claimed two third and two fifth place finishes, we endured a couple of very difficult seasons.

“We have implemented a significant restructuring over the last nine months and have strengthened the technical leadership team.

“The 2020 Formula 1 season has, of course, been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this will have an impact on our commercial rights income this year. 

“In common with many other businesses, we have taken extensive action to mitigate, including a prolonged furlough period for much of our staff. 

“As this awful global crisis recedes, everyone at Williams Racing is looking forward to the start of the new season.”

There is no word on whether drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi would be part of the negotiations.

As well, former McLaren operations chief Simon Roberts did not rate a mention.

He was to have joined Williams on June 1 to oversee the team’s F1 technical, operations and planning functions — as well as racing and factory operations.

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Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.
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