Ex-team boss preparing to start watching F1 again following ‘painful exit’

Thomas Maher
Williams' Claire Williams at the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2019.

Williams' Claire Williams at the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2019.

Claire Williams says she’s been unable to watch any F1 races since leaving the sport behind almost three years ago.

The Williams F1 team changed hands towards the end of the 2020 Formula 1 season, with the family-owned team of some 40 years selling up to present owners, US investment company Dorilton Capital.

Claire Williams, who served as deputy team principal at the Grands Prix in the absence of father and team founder Sir Frank Williams, left the paddock for the final time at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix – and she says she hasn’t watched a race since.

Claire Williams: I’m going to start watching F1 again

Having gone from a position of leading a Formula 1 team for several years, first taking over her father’s duties at the race track in 2013, Williams has admitted returning back to ‘civilian’ life meant being unable to watch Formula 1 as a fan – but she now feels able to dip her toes back into enjoying the sport she grew up surrounded by.

“I don’t watch it anymore,” she told the UK’s Sun newspaper.

“It has been a really conscious decision because I’m still recovering from taking a step back. Leaving my team has left an enormous gap. We were reluctant sellers. Life took us down that road where we were forced to sell.

“I’m getting to that point now where I’m going to start watching again.

“It is still quite painful and difficult seeing someone else run the team that was once in our family and life.”

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Williams now ‘moving in the right direction’ under James Vowles

Sir Frank Williams passed away the year after his team was sold to Dorilton. Having been paralysed and confined to a wheelchair following a road traffic accident in 1986, Williams had suffered numerous health issues in his final years and was admitted to hospital days before his passing.

Having built up one of the sport’s most successful teams during his time as the leader of Williams, taking nine Constructors’ Championships and seven Drivers’ Championships over 40 years, the sale of the Williams F1 team to Dorilton didn’t result in a name change as the team’s new owners opted to retain its history.

Now under the firm hand of new team boss James Vowles, formerly a lead strategist with Mercedes during their years of dominance, Claire says his appointment would have met with the approval of her father.

“It is nice that Williams as a name still remains in Formula 1,” she said.

“With James now being there, it looks like the team is moving in the right direction.

“When they told me it was James I was like, ‘My goodness, just genius’. He’s a brilliant choice.

“I genuinely believe my dad would have been really happy with that decision as well.”

Williams had taken the gamble of signing George Russell to a long-term contract, with the British driver staying on with the Grove-based squad until the end of 2021 before he got the call up to Mercedes.

Having been part of the process to mould Russell from a young driver with plenty of potential into an established front-runner and now race winner, Williams acknowledged that Russell had perhaps spent a little too long with Grove.

“I’m really proud of George and so happy for him because we did hold him back at Williams and kept him to his contract,” she said.

“My dad taught me, when you go through a struggle, the success when you finally get it, is all the more rewarding.”

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