Who calls the shots at Williams?

Here is a list of names:

  • Patrick Head
  • Sam Michael
  • Adam Parr
  • Frank Williams
  • Toto Wolff

This has been a turbulent week for Williams. Sam Michael has resigned as the team’s technical director. Along with him, chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson will also go. The team’s Chairman Adam Parr also offered his resignation. It is a sign of just how desperate things have become after Williams have hit yet another new low at the start of this season.

But the recent moves just the latest in a Williams team that seems to endlessly change its shape. I am far from a business expert. Far be it from me to tell Williams that they are doing it wrong. But from the outside, it does sometimes seem like a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.

Who calls the shots at Williams? It’s hard to say. There are the five names I listed above. To that list, you can now add the public shareholders, whose views also surely have some sway.

This too many cooks phenomenon appeared to be underlined by the apparent confusion over whether or not it has been announced that Patrick Head is planning on retiring within the next year. Adam Parr had announced it, but it appears as though he jumped the gun.

The Guardian went as far as to describe it as “open conflict”.

In a conference call Parr told reporters: “Patrick has made it clear that he will be retiring this year. That’s nothing to do with the restructuring, it’s just the fact that he’s turning 65 and had already signalled that it’s time for him to move on to his next set of interests in life.”

But Head has since denied Parr’s claims, saying: “What you are telling me is news to me. I wasn’t aware that Adam had said that.

“He wasn’t in a position to make that statement. My plans are not in the public domain and they will only be when I make my own statement later in the year.”


Adam Parr is obviously good at his job. That is clear from the fact that Williams did not accept his resignation offer. But does he overstep his remit?

People who read F1 news websites will be highly familiar with Adam Parr. He is chairman now, but even as CEO he was a very prominent figure in Williams. He is constantly in the news, providing everyone with information about what’s going on at Williams.

But how many could name Mr Parr’s predecessor as CEO? It is Chris Chapple. He wasn’t in the job long, but nevertheless the point remains that I had never heard of him. I have not even been able to find out who was the head of finance at Williams before then. How many could tell you who the current CEO is? (It’s Alex Burns.)

As part of this picture, what is the role of Frank Williams? Of Patrick Head? How about Toto Wolff, who bought a share of Williams last year? He appears to exert a fair bit of influence too — he was making rumblings in the press last week just before the turmoil truly began.

I think with most other teams you could name one or two people that are so prominent within a team. From the outside, it is not a clear structure. At McLaren, for instance, you can say the buck stops with Martin Whitmarsh. But where does it stop at Williams?

This is probably as a result of an attempted handover. It is about preparing for — or reacting to — a time when Frank Williams and Patrick Head have less energy and motivation than they had in the 1980s and 1990s when Williams could be world-beaters.

But the handover seems to have been botched — and the picture only gets more complicated as time goes on. Have the money men taken over from those that love racing and want to win? I was interested in a point made by Todd over at Formula1Blog.com. They seem to be settling for sixth in order to meet their business obligations and no more.

Clearly this is a difficult time for Williams. Yet more change is in the works. I hope they can get it right soon, because no-one wants to see Williams doing so badly.

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