Williams F1: The End of an Era
September 4, 2020
When I got interested in Formula 1 back in the late 90’s, the Williams F1 team was on the heels of what would turn out to be their final championships as a family owned team. This weekend’s Monza race marks the final time a Williams will be at the helm, as Claire steps down as Deputy Team Principal following the sale of the team to an investment group from the States.
My favorite racing driver when I was younger was Juan Montoya, so when I learned he was leaving Indycar* to drive for the Williams Team in Formula 1, I became a fan immediately. Even with limited knowledge about the sport up to that point, I knew that Sir Frank Williams selected Montoya specifically because he was a fierce competitor and a pure racer. Sir Frank always had a soft spot for pure speed and didn’t care as much about polish, politeness, or PR darlings.
It’s impossible to say whether or not the sale will rejuvinate the team, but it feels like the loss of an institution. In a sport showcasing enormous corporations with multi-thousand employee support systems, Williams stood alone as a constant reminder of the importance of grit, the strength of family, and the success smaller teams once had. They were the last outfit that could truly be considered ‘scrappy’.
*Indycar is used colloquially here. There were 2 American open wheel racing series back then, IRL (Indy Racing League) and CART. It's a long story.