Williams want to follow Red Bull and Ferrari’s route back to the top

Sam Cooper
Jost Capito speaking to the press at Silverstone. Great Britain July 2021

Jost Capito has vowed to guide Williams back to the top of the Formula 1 tree and highlighted Ferrari and Red Bull as his guiding examples.

Of the 170 different constructors to have participated in a Formula 1 season, only one can claim to be more successful than Williams. The team, founded by Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head in 1977, have won nine Constructors’ Championships and seven Drivers’ Championships, yet in recent history their fortunes have taken a turn for the worse.

In their first 10 full seasons in the sport, their average finish in the championship was 3.2 while in the 10 most recent campaigns, it is down to 7.1 including three last-place finishes and ending the season no higher than third in 2014 and 2015.

The organisation of the team has also changed dramatically. In August 2020, the team was bought by private investment firm Dorilton Capital and both Sir Frank Williams and his daughter Claire, who was deputy team principal, stepped down.

The man tasked with awakening this long sleeping giant was Capito, whose 30-year career boasted time at McLaren, BMW and Porsche as well as a four-year stint as director of motorsport at Volkswagen.

Immediately under his guidance, the team improved to an eighth-place finish (owed in part to Haas’ sacrifice of the 2021 campaign to prepare for 2022 and Alfa Romeo’s reliability issues) yet this season they are cut adrift at the foot of the table, 17 points behind ninth-placed Aston Martin.

Capito has chosen to look on the positive side of things though and drawn comparisons between the needed recovery of his team and past examples of Red Bull and Ferrari.

“The way the season has gone so far is not what we had hoped for but the team have been at the back of the pack for years, there’s a lot of rebuilding to do,” the 63-year-old told speedweek.com. “That’s a long process in Formula 1. We saw that at Red Bull Racing and also at Ferrari. It’s the same with Williams.

“Williams are a traditional racing team but have not been in a position to invest heavily in the last 10 years. If you look at the gap between us and the other teams at the beginning of the season, it has become smaller. We can now compete with other teams again and that’s fun.”

The Williams boss did, however, admit there was unlikely to be any improvement to this year’s car. which means a fourth 10th-placed finish in the last five years looks likely.

“We have started working on the car for next year. So we are not doing so much on this car anymore. We are prioritising there. There’s not much more you can do on this car that will take us forward next year. There is not much more to expect,” said Capito.

What is top of Capito’s Williams to-do list?

One of the first things we think Capito needs to do is find himself a new driver. The acquisition of Alex Albon from Red Bull followed by his contract extension has helped to soften the blow of George Russell‘s departure to Mercedes, yet what it has also done is further highlighted the inability of Nicholas Latifi to compete at this level.

Despite his shock P1 in FP3 at the Hungarian Grand Prix, the Canadian remains the only full-time driver on the grid yet to have scored a point this season. Furthermore, no driver who has completed the last two seasons has scored fewer points than him.

Latifi is not the only driver to be in the sport not solely on merit. His father, Michael, is the owner, chairman and CEO of Sofina Foods, a Williams sponsor, and while the figure has not been made public, he is reported to have sunk $30million into the team.

While the Williams car has by no means been a world-beater, Latifi’s continued failure to beat his team-mate suggests if the team want to move up the table, it will not be by keeping hold of the Canadian.

 

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