A few days ago, Claire Williams made the surprising and emotional announcement that she and the Williams family, including Father and team founder Frank, would be stepping back from the team after the Italian Grand Prix weekend. It was a shock announcement for the world of F1. The team was recently sold to Dorilton Capital recently, providing the much-needed finances the team needs, and securing their place on the grid for the foreseeable future. The Williams family stepping down is a massive shock for myself and every F1 fan, and certainly, one that we didn’t see coming. Frank has still held his place at the head of the team, and although he rarely goes to races now, he still sits at the top of the board and spends most of his time at his office and the team factory. Daughter Claire has assumed the Deputy Team Principal role in her father's absence at the track and has become the face of Williams in recent seasons.
With this announcement, it got me thinking of who could replace Claire as the team principal. With the team having their future secured and with the potential to move back up the grid and become a force to be reckoned with in the medium to long term future, there may well be a few people Dorilton have shortlisted to take the position and take over the day to day running of Williams. There may also be a few personnel who will be on the phone to Dorilton to sweet talk them and get their name on the list. I have listed a few below, some who may well fit well, some I have only included for a bit of fun, but it will certainly be interesting to see who does get the position.
John Booth is no stranger to F1. He was team principal at Marussia (later Manor Racing) in Formula One from 2010 to 2015 and was later Director of Racing at Toro Rosso (now Alpha Tauri) from 2016 to 2018. With plenty of F1 knowledge and experience, he would be good for the position of team principal, but having been away from the sport for a few years, it remains to be seen if a return to F1 will tempt him and whether or not he would get back up to speed quickly. Booth also has a decent helping of World Endurance Championship knowledge, having formed the Manor Motorsport team alongside former F1 colleague Graeme Lowdon, who is believed to be advising and assisting new owners Dorilton with their F1 venture.
The former Lotus and McLaren man would, in my eyes, be a good pick for Williams. He has plenty of F1 knowledge and experience and was in a team principal role more recently than Booth. He was racing director at McLaren from 2014 to 2018 and prior to that, served as team principal of Lotus F1 from 2010 to 2013, and oversaw the teams successful seasons in 2012 and 2013, with Kimi Raikkonen winning two Grands Prix and both Raikkonen and teammate Romain Grosjean collect a decent haul of podiums. He resigned from McLaren in 2018 after being in charge of their unsuccessful reunion with Honda and the underwhelming switch to Renault. He has since gone on to become the managing director of the French Grand Prix organisation, but would make a decent team principal for a Williams team undergoing a rebuilding process and would help to get them on track with his extensive knowledge of F1.
This one is unlikely, I know. A man who needs no introduction in the F1 world, Ron Dennis became instrumental in turning McLaren into the all-conquering and dominant team from the mid to late 80s and into the 90s, when their dominance was ended by the Williams team. He brought Senna and Prost together in what would become a fractious and explosive partnership and his ruthless way of running the team and his no-nonsense approach divided opinion throughout the sport. He returned to McLaren in 2014 after 6 years away (previously in charge from 1980-2008) and left again in 2016. It was Dennis who brought Honda back to McLaren in the hope of reigniting their dominant partnership of the 80s. It wasn’t to be, however, and Dennis left F1 following the disastrous reunion. I doubt he will be seen in the F1 paddock in a team role again, but one can imagine.
Ok, so this one is just daft. But I would love it! The charismatic Italian was team principal at Ferrari from 2014-2019 and oversaw the acquisition of Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull, and was in charge during a difficult period of F1, due to Mercedes and their dominance over the sport. He was a loved and wet valued member of the community, and it was a shame when he was replaced by Mattia Binotto at Maranello, in what has appeared to be a bit of a backward move for the fallen giants. His knowledge of F1 is profound and he would be an excellent addition to any F1 team. A passionate Italian would be fantastic in charge! I would love to see him at Williams, but I just can’t see it, unfortunately!
A Former F1 Driver?
It would be nice to see. A number of F1 drivers have returned to the sport either as team principals or team owners, with the likes of Jackie Stewart, Jack Brabham, and Alain Prost among them, all achieving different levels of success. It would be great to see, maybe a former Williams driver returns to the team in a team principal role, but who knows what will happen. A former F1 driver is always a bit of a risk. They wouldn’t want to tarnish their reputation with the team, especially if they are a former driver, by overseeing a bad period for the team and achieving no success, but if they were to be successful and see good results come to the team, it would further cement their reputation in the sport and in the team.
Ok, so I’ve only listed a few. Mainly because Claire has only recently announced her resignation and these were the first names that spring to mind. I’m sure that in the coming weeks we will find out who has got the position of Team Principal, and hopefully, they will be a good appointment for the team. If Lowdon is assisting and advising Dorilton, I’m sure he will recommend a good person for the team during a difficult period. Someone to steady the ship and guide it in the right direction.
One thing is for sure, even though I’ve never been 100% sure about Claire Williams as a team principal, the love she has for the team is obvious and F1 is going to be a much worse place without the Williams family there. They’ve been a constant on the grid for over 40 years, and they will leave a big gap to be filled in the paddock. I have so much respect for Claire as a person, and for Sir Frank for everything he has done in and out of the sport for over 40 years. I will f course continue to support Williams of course, but it just won’t feel the same knowing they are no longer family-owned and the family that used to own them aren’t even on the grid anymore. Fingers crossed the glory days are not too far away for them again!
As always, take care and stay safe!