Widowed Williams' faith in family

2013-04-01 06:48

LONDON, England - Frank Williams is a bold and enterprising man who built one of Formula 1's greatest teams out of nothing.

In his earliest days, and during some of his most difficult periods of challenging cash-flow problems, he even resorted to running his business out of a traditional red telephone call box... or so the stories go.

He used his charm and wit to succeed, as he has done through four decades of struggle and triumph that often saw the team declared the epitome of British courage and quality. He also demonstrated great courage and an indefatigable spirit by overcoming car-crash injuries that left him in a wheelchair to continue leading his team all over the world.


This week, after the death of his wife Virginia, he made another typically bold step by announcing that his daughter Claire had been promoted to become deputy team principal - a move that "created a clear succession path".

In other words Frank, one of the toughest characters in one of the most macho of all the elite global sports, had decided to hand over, in due course, to a woman.

Claire Williams, 36, is the second woman to take a major role in running a modern F1 team. Monisha Kaltenborn was promoted to team principal at Sauber for the 2012 season. In the cut-throat world of F1 they will need to be as skilled in the politics of their business as they are in management of their people.

The F1 paddock's inner circle of powerful forces is not known as "the Piranha Club" for nothing.

Williams has retained her role as commercial director, leading the team's marketing, communications and sponsorship activities, a job she has developed successfully after working her way up.


"I've grown up in the sport and learned the ropes from one of F1 legendary team principals. I feel well-equipped for this new challenge," she said. "I understand the commitment that every person within the team gives each day to see our car out on the track and I am determined to see us back at the top."

Frank Williams, 70, added: "Over the past decade Claire has worked tirelessly for Williams. Her knowledge of the sport and passion for the team is unquestionable and I'm proud to say that during her time here she has proved to be one of our most valuable assets.

"This appointment also had my wife's blessing. I know she would have been incredibly proud to have seen Claire taking on this position by my side."

Her promotion could prove to be timely as the team fight to overcome a poor start to the season: zero points from the first two races, Australia and Malaysia. After a return to form in 2012 that peaked with a Spanish GP win, the British outfit came into 2013 feeling well-placed to build on the momentum.

Instead it was baffled by a lack of performance now blamed on the introduction of a new high-tech exhaust system. Technical director Mike Coughlan said the problems had been identified and would be fixed.