Since Jost Capito started working at Williams in February, an imminent change was inevitable, and that process began this week with the departure of team manager Simon Roberts.
The former McLaren Capito boss, who has over 40 years of motorsport experience including immense success with Volkswagen in the World Rally Championship, joined Williams at the lowest point in their history.
The iconic British team – the second most successful in F1 history in terms of constructor titles – has finished 10th in each of the past three seasons. It was quite clear that a review was needed.
READ MORE: Roberts to leave Williams as CEO Capito takes on team leader role
The need for such a drastic change is exactly why Capito was persuaded to delay his retirement and take over the project. He knew it would be a long-term project, with no quick fixes or rash decision making. So he took his time to assess how to revitalize the business from scratch.
He started talking to everyone in the company, setting up over 80 one-on-one meetings with senior executives to find out what needed to change, while also analyzing the company’s operations both at the time. ‘factory and at the edge of the track.
Tech overhaul tops Capito’s to-do list
And this writer understands that it quickly became apparent that there was a major problem with the technical structure, with track engineering and plant engineering not being aligned. They were reporting on different channels.
It was a legacy of Paddy Lowe steps down as Technical Director and the team chose not to staff it under the previous leadership, instead creating the role of Managing Director, which Simon Roberts took on last June, who was responsible for technical, operational and planning functions.
READ MORE: Paddy Lowe explains why his return to Williams in 2017 didn’t work – and why the team backed down
The problem with this structure was that silos were created, with a greater focus on the engineering of the track. This department did not work hand in hand with its factory counterpart. It is understood that each protected their position and did not work well together and therefore did not develop the car with a common goal.
So Capito, after 100 days in charge, formulated the first step of their long-term plan which focused on restructuring the technical department. Track engineering would no longer be the responsibility of the team director, known internally as the race director, and instead would be the responsibility of technical director FX Demaison.
The role of race director would then be abolished, with the remaining functions being split between Capito – who will now be the de facto team director alongside his role as CEO – and a newly created role of sporting director.
Meanwhile, this writer understands that Williams will now have a new position as Race Engineering Manager (albeit an interim title), with the person filling that role to be announced ahead of the next Grand Prix. of France.
READ MORE: Who is FX Demaison – and why has Williams looked outside of F1 for his new technical leader?
The sporting director position is currently vacant, with the team now working with potential candidates. They will work closely with Team Manager Dave Redding and will be responsible for looking after – among other things – the track racing drivers as well as the team’s Driver Academy, two functions that currently do not fall within the remit of nobody.
The new owners have wisely relied on the advice of those familiar with the sport since taking over the management of Williams, bringing in former Marussia CEO Graeme Lowdon as advisor following the takeover of the ‘team. And by recruiting Capito, they have given him their full support to instill the changes he deems necessary to bring the team back to the forefront.
What about the drivers?
What does this mean for Williams’ driver lineup beyond 2021, with George Russell and Nicholas Latifi terminating at the end of the year?
This writer understands that this isn’t an imminent priority for the team, even though Russell has publicly stated that he would like his future to be settled before the summer recess. For Capito, he thinks it’s more important to set up the team structure, operations, and engineering capabilities before thinking about pilots.
READ MORE: ‘There may be a chance to keep him’ – Capito wants to extend Russell’s stay at Williams
It is likely that they will not have their choice of riders due to their current position in the constructor rankings, so the focus is believed to be on getting a package that takes them forward and improves the ride. desire of pilots to race for them.
As a result, the team is unlikely to make a decision on its roster in the coming months.
Make the big calls
Letting Roberts go was a tough decision, given how successful he made the transition to the new owners Dorilton Capital. He was highly regarded within the team and made them perform at an improved and more efficient level on the track.
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Many inside Williams believe the team would have fallen apart during the changeover without him – but ultimately his role no longer existed and a move to another role would have been a demotion, which neither party wanted. Williams is believed to have parted ways with him on good terms.
The overhaul is part of Capito’s plans to make the organization leaner and more efficient. There will be shorter reporting lines to speed up communication, away from committee decisions, to allow things to happen faster and more efficiently.
Individual managers have now been tasked with realigning their departments, following the restructuring, before working with Capito to lighten their respective teams and establish clearer layers below.
The key for Capito, it is understood, is for the team to be more efficient and to avoid duplication of work. This is particularly critical after the introduction of the budget ceiling, which will gradually decrease over the next two years. Every penny counts even more than before.
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It also means that although Williams has operated with a smaller organization than most of its rivals, they are not considering taking Aston Martin’s approach to growing their business in terms of workforce. Instead, they want to focus on making the most of the people they have and spending their resources – which come from Dorilton – wisely.
The change is not without pain, but if Williams is to return to the top of the grid, big decisions like this will have to be made.