December 2022 was one of the most extraordinary months in Formula One history. 4 out of the 10 teams changed their principal and whilst 3 have their new captains at the helm and steadying the ships, Williams is yet to announce the replacement for Jost Capito and Technical Director Francois Xavier Demaison. For the team at the bottom of the pile in Formula One, this has to be of concern.
The Grove based team had made progress during the 2021 season finishing 8th in the constructors’ championship ahead of both Alfa Romeo and Haas. However, 2022 was a completely different matter.
Williams F1 ex-boss claims “foundations laid”
As part of the Williams announcement of Capito’s departure, the former VW motorsport chief said, “It has been a huge privilege to lead Williams Racing for the last two seasons and to lay the foundations for the turnaround of this great team.”
Yet in reality the foundations for 2021 were set before Capito was appointed in December 2020 and his legacy is the disappointing results from 2022.
It’s been one whole month since the departure of William’s top management with not a whisper over who is set to replace them. Now Swedish based F1 journalist reveals the problems behind the scene in Grove which may have meant Capito and Demaison were pushed rather than jumped.
The Williams F1 brain drain
Scott Mitchell-Malm believes Capito’s short tenure at the helm of Williams F1 in fact set the team back further and was at best described as divisive.
“I’m worried about how much has gone on behind the scenes, in terms of: who else has left that is obviously less of a high profile headline departure?” said Mitchell-Malm to TheRace.
“I’ve heard quite a few stories of the type of people that have either been removed over the last 12-18 months or who have just walked away – from all aspects of the Williams business as well, not just the race team but on the marketing and comms side, all the different elements of Williams.
“It’s not been gutted, but there have been a lot of people who have cropped up elsewhere.
Jost Capito was divisive
“I think the Capito era – short as it was – was very divisive internally
“He did have some people in the team that did buy into it. There were some who felt that there were inherent problems within Williams and it was actually fine that someone was trying to make changes even if his methods were a bit unorthodox, because something needed to change.
“But then there were a lot of people in the team that were resistant to that.
“There’s certainly been a significant turnover of staff there.
Williams F1 struggle to recruit
“Unless Capito exiting and the person replacing him create a shift of the narrative around the team, I don’t really see why a lot of people would want to go there and I think that’s key to what happens next for Williams.
“I’m very, very curious to see what other announcements there might be from Williams through the year. Can they bolster their ranks?
“Are there any signs that the really negative atmosphere that seemed to permeate that team – especially as 2022 went on, because of Capito’s methods and the fact that he was such a divisive character – has been convincingly washed away to a point where people want to go there again?
“Or is it just going to meander a little bit for a while, carrying a bit more long-term damage from a period of slightly problematic leadership?”
Williams F1 value has soared
What is strange is was the sudden departure of Williams’ team principal and Chief Technical Officer. Even stranger is the apparent lack of urgency from Williams’ owner Dorilton Capital of new management for the up-coming season.
Dorilton bought the struggling team in August 2020 for €152m marking the end of an era for the struggling family owned team.
With Porsche allegedly looking for a way into Formula One and Andretti knocking on the door repeatedly, it may be Dorilton are negotiating their exit and leaving there management appointments in the hands of the new owners.
Given the current rumblings from the F1 teams who want to increase the entry fee from $200m to $600m, Dorilton Capital may own a valuable asset even though its performance potential at present is not good.
F1 fans on the first race weekend of next season: pic.twitter.com/RNhLA7c32Q
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) January 11, 2023