Formula One: Struggling Williams are here to stay in F1, says deputy team principal Claire Williams

Claire Williams (left), deputy team principal of the Williams Formula One racing team, and Serguei Beloussov, CEO of Acronis. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - In the last few months, Williams' deputy team principal Claire Williams has endured criticism from all quarters, and even considered stepping down, as her once-illustrious team fell from grace.

Williams, with nine Formula One constructors' and seven drivers' titles, are last among the 10 teams this season, no thanks to their disastrous FW41 car.

To make it worse, their financial health has been under intense scrutiny ahead of the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, but Williams insisted yesterday that the storied team are here to stay.

While a minder wanted to stop a question on the team's financial health on the sidelines of team sponsor Acronis' 15-year anniversary gala on Wednesday (Sept 12), Williams interjected and said she would "rather answer (the question) and tackle it".

"Williams is a publicly listed company and our accounts are there for everyone to see," said the 42-year-old daughter of team founder Frank Williams. "There is a lot of speculation out there with regard to Williams' financial health... Williams has had a healthy budget this year to compete with, and will have a healthy budget to compete with next year."

Questions arose in February when Martini said it would end its lucrative sponsorship deal with the England-based team by year end. The rumours continued when Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, who has been pumping sponsorship dollars into the team, successfully led a consortium to take over troubled Force India last month.

His son, Lance, who drives for Williams, is expected to leave for Force India before the end of the season.

The money woes will be compounded if they finish bottom of the constructors' standings, as share of revenues is distributed according to a team's placing and other factors.

But a defiant Williams said: "Williams has been in Formula One for more than 40 years, and we will continue to be in F1. This is what we do and we always have had a healthy budget by which to do it."

She acknowledged that they "made a mistake" with the aerodynamics programme for the FW41 car, but added that there were "many other weaknesses" in the team, without going into details.

But she remained optimistic and said: "This has enabled us to look at everything and maybe we wouldn't have done that if we were fifth in the championship."

The team can also count on global data protection company Acronis, with which they inked a multi-year partnership earlier this year.

Acronis founder and multimillionaire Serguei Beloussov told The Straits Times the company wants to be "a bigger partner" to Williams.

He added: "Five years ago, my company was in a difficult situation too but now, we are one of the market leaders. For Williams, this is a transformation year and they can only do better."

Williams was grateful for the partnership, saying: "We both understand that sometimes things don't go as you want them to go, especially in sports. But your partners stick by you and support you even more during these times.

"It's up to us now to reward them in the future."

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