Sir Frank Williams maintains that he never considered turning his back on the sport that has been the raison d'etre
of his company for 30 years, insisting that the Williams team is in 'very good health' despite the current financial climate being perhaps the toughest opponent it has faced in that time.
Speaking to Britain's Times
newspaper, the veteran team owner again rubbished speculation that his privateer outfit could be next in line to quit Formula One, following the shock exit of Honda last week, and claimed that, despite having debts, the company was actually in good shape.
Confirming that the Williams team had made combined losses nearing £50m in 2006 and 2007, the 66-year old insisted that the recently-agreed cost-cutting measures could only improve its fortunes, particularly on-track against the major manufacturers that have made life hard for the smaller outfits in the past ten years.
“The sport has taken a healthy, helpful step forward,” Williams said, “In recent years, it's been possible to put together a budget to keep a team in F1, but tough to put together a budget that would make a team competitive. This makes it easier.
“The manufacturers, with their huge spending power, have made life very tough in the past few years, but there was never a time when I asked myself 'what's the point?'. It was always in the back of my mind that having them all in the sport at the same time, driving up the costs, could be a temporary phenomenon. It's not against the rules, of course, but now they're coming under pressure to cut costs, it brings them back to us.”
Williams received a minor setback during the week, when it was announced that significant sponsor Lenovo was to withdraw its backing - possibly to transfer it to a more currently successful operation - but the Grove team will be on the grid next season with the support of both new and existing partners.
“Our budgeted income for next season is more than 90 per cent of what it was last season,” he said. “We've lost one or two sponsors, like every team, but we're having more success with others coming on board than we've had for several years, and some existing sponsors have considerably increased their commitment. That's how it tends to work in a sport in which teams compete as fiercely off the track as they do on it.
“We carry a certain amount of debt but, against the value of our assets, including buildings and land, it's a modest proportion, a lot less than 50 per cent. Very few companies don't have an overdraft. We are in very good health.”
While applauding the agreements reached by the FIA and teams' body FOTA in Monaco this week, however, Williams feels that there are more savings to be made in an effort to make Formula One both more secure and more attractive to aspiring entrants, notably through salary and budget caps.
“We've raised this issue several times and will take the opportunity to do so again,” he noted, “We'd strongly support a budget cap, introduced gradually, if it could be properly policed.”