Featured Story Motorsport

Was Claire Williams pushed? You bet. Racing on TV this weekend

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

Lots going on in the world of Formula One. Let’s get started.

One of the most storied teams in the history of modern F1, Williams Grand Prix Engineering, was sold last month, something that became public in recent days. The new owners, U.S. investment firm Darilton Capital, said the team would continue to be called Williams and that it planned to continue working with current management.

Current management, it turns out, except Sir Frank and his daughter, Claire, who has been running the team.

Claire told the world in a release Thursday that she was stepping down but my bet is that she was told to leave. It seems a strange time to resign. If it was voluntary, you would think she would have done it before the team travelled to Italy for the first of two races there. This way, she’s in charge this weekend for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza but then she has to hit the road.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a Formula One team or a hardware store. If it’s sold, it’s always better to have a clean break. If you let somebody who runs a company stick around for even a minute after the deal closes, you’re asking for trouble. Sign the cheque and get the keys and start doing things your way. If the old boss is still around, you’ll say. “Do this,” and they’ll say, “Oh, we never do that; we do it this way.” And the fight is on.

A new team principal will be in place by next weekend’s race at Mugello. My guess is it will be a retired British racing driver, James Matthews, who is on the Dorilton board and is married to Pippa Middleton, sister of Kate, which makes Prince William, who will be (at some point) the King of England, his brother-in-law.

Giving Matthews that job is a stroke of genius. William will be able to open doors – doors where the real money is – that will give Matthews a financial leg up on just about every other team principal and commercial director in the paddock.

In fact, William could be so influential in the rebuilding of this once-proud franchise that when Dorilton  starts thinking of a new name for the team (and that will happen too, you know), Monarchy could very well be at the top of the list.

Monarchy F1. Kinda has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

In an interview, Canadian F1 driver for Williams, Nicholas Latifi of Toronto, said he was surprised at the news that the Williams’s were out. “It was a shock when Claire told George (Russell) and I this morning prior to the announcement,” he said.

“It’s a real shame and a loss for the sport. It goes without saying that . . . what they’ve accomplished in Formula One in general is pretty incredible. They will always have a special place in my heart. I have yet to complete a first full season in F1 but both of them were the ones who gave me the opportunity to cut my teeth in F1 and they entrusted me to represent them, the team and the employees.

“It’s been a real honour to race for them. It’s sad to see.”

Sir Frank has done this before, of course. Back in the 1970s, he sold his Frank Williams Racing Cars F1 team to a Canadian, Walter Wolf. It started as a partnership but Williams eventually left. He and Patrick Head then started Williams Grand Prix Engineering, the company that was in play this time.

So I asked Latifi if he thought it possible something like that could happen again? Could Claire Williams take a vacation and then start another team? The circumstances are similar, in that both times Williams lost his team because he was broke. The driver didn’t think it would happen. “I don’t think so,” he said.

If Williams has been sold, I suggest some other teams are also looking to sell or take on a partner.  Like Haas.

Second practice for the Monza race can be seen today on TSN at 8:45 a.m. Qualifying will be on TSN at 8:55 a.m. Saturday and the race itself will be on TSN Sunday at 9:05 a.m.

Okay, moving right along, Sebastian Vettel says F1 has to start taking the lead on things having to do with the environment. Or else. Sounds like he’s talking about Formula Electric (a.k.a. Formula E). I wonder if that’s where he’ll wind up next year?

And organizers of the Turkish Grand Prix in November are projecting 100,000 will attend the race. Are they serious?

OTHER RACING THIS WEEKEND

IMSA moves to Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., this weekend and Multimatic Motorsports of Markham is ready for two days of flat out racing. The Multimatic-run Mazda prototypes (see picture, above) will compete in the WeatherTech Sportscar six-hour enduro on Saturday – it’s replacing the six-hour race at Watkins Glen that was cancelled – before the Ford Mustang GT4 takes to the track for a four-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race on Sunday. Watch the six hours Saturday on Discovery/Velocity Channel starting at 11:30 a.m. and the Pilot Challenge Sunday on ISMA.com at 12:05 p.m.

NASCAR is in Darlington, S.C., for the Southern 500. The Xfinity Series will also be running. The Xfinity race goes Saturday at noon on NBC and TSN; the Cup 500 can be seen Sunday at 6 p.m. on TSN. Incidentally, the recording of the NASCAR Canada Pinty’s Series Race 1 from Flamboro Speedway that took place last weekend will be shown on TSN starting at 4:30 p.m. Sunday. The NASCAR trucks series race from Darlington can be seen on FOX Sports Racing (FSR) at 10 p.m. Sunday.

I’m fit to be tied, by the way. FSR is part of my Rogers package and I have enjoyed it since it was launched in 2013 (replacing the SPEED Channel, for those who remember), A couple of weeks ago, it stopped working and I got one of those stupid, “You are not authorized to watch this channel” messages. I have spent several hours talking to Rogers reps who all agree I should be getting it but they can’t get it to work. One even rebooted my system remotely. No dice. Somebody has to come and fix something in the little box on the outside of my house. But will they? Nope.

Which means I won’t be able to watch the NHRA U.S. Nationals on FSR Sunday night at 7 p.m. I’m not happy.

Enjoy the Labour Day weekend, folks.