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Williams says any team sale would be to secure F1 future

LONDON (Reuters) - Williams are prepared to end decades of family control and sell the struggling Formula One team to secure its future after tough times on and off the track, deputy principal Claire Williams said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Williams Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams attends a news conference at the Azerbaijan Formula One Grand Prix - Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan - April 26, 2019 REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

The announcement is a major shift for a proudly British company co-founded by Frank Williams, Claire’s father, and that won a string of world championships during a period of dominance in the 1980s and 90s.

The team have won 114 races to date but have been last for the past two years.

Claire Williams rejected a suggestion that any potential sale might be seen as a sign of desperation.

“Williams as a family have always put our Formula One team first,” she told reporters in a Zoom call after annual results showed a loss of 13 million pounds ($15.98 million) in 2019 compared to a previous profit of 12.9 million.

“I feel very much that seeking inward investment at this juncture is absolutely in line with that philosophy we’ve always had -- to protect our team’s future, to protect the people that work for us.”

A strategic review will look at all options ranging from securing new investment to a potential sale of the entire company.

Williams said nothing was ruled out but sidestepped a question about whether the company was at risk if a sale was not forthcoming.

“I have every confidence that we will find the investment we need,” she said.

Williams said the review was not driven by any one, key factor such as the COVID-19 pandemic that has stalled the 2020 season and will have a big impact on revenues.

She said the company wanted to wrap things up in the next three to four months.

“We are fully funded throughout the remainder of this year to continue racing as and when we can go back to the circuit,” she added. Formula One aims to start the season in July.

Williams said her father, now 78 and removed from the day to day running of the business, was ‘up to speed’ and supportive.

“He wants to ensure the future success of his team and understands and agrees that this is the right time to seek inward investment in order to achieve that,” she said.

Formula One will have a $145 million budget cap next year, which should reduce the big gap between the top teams and the rest, while technical measures for 2022 aim to make racing more competitive.

Williams said that would make the sport more attractive to would-be investors.

($1 = 0.8135 pounds)

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge