Future remains 'bright', say Williams
|By Jonathan Noble||Wednesday, February 25th 2009, 19:28 GMT|
Adam Parr, the CEO of Williams, says he can only see a 'positive' future for his team, despite Wednesday's announcement that major sponsor, the Royal Bank of Scotland, is to quit the sport.
As an independent outfit, Williams have faced a struggle in recent years to match the budgets of the big-money manufacturers - and the loss of a backer like RBS is not ideal.
But Parr remains upbeat that moves to reduce costs in F1 allied to Williams's already strong portfolio of sponsors means there is no reason to feel downbeat about the current situation.
When asked by autosport.com whether he felt that rule changes to reduce costs meant that Williams had a bright future in F1 despite RBS's plans, Parr said: "I do, although I know it is very difficult to paint a positive picture at the moment.
"What you have to think about is this - when I came into the sport a few years ago, I was sitting across from people (in team principals' meetings) who said money does not matter to us. Now, we don't have discussions like that any more.
"In order for Williams to be competitive and be in the frame for the past two or three years, we have had to spend beyond our means. For the next two years we will not do that, and we will be paying off a significant chunk of debt. We are (now) seeing a scenario where our means are not dissimilar to the rest of F1."
RBS has confirmed to the team that despite its pull-out plans, it will stick to its commitment to be a team sponsor until the end of 2010 - even though some of the costs of their sponsorship marketing will be reduced. The bank intends to cut its spending on hospitality by 90% this year and have cancelled trackside advertising for 2010.
The RBS deal is believed to account for 10 percent of Williams's total budget, and Parr said that against the backdrop of the bank's financial problems it was not a total surprise that they were choosing not to remain in F1.
"Obviously it isn't good news for the sport that someone like RBS is withdrawing," explained Parr. "From our point of view we have suspected for some time there was only a slim chance of them continuing beyond their current sponsorship term, and that is the end of 2010.
"The important thing for us is that the board confirmed to us yesterday and confirmed publicly today that they will honour the contract until 2010."
The announcement of RBS is not the only bad news that Williams have suffered recently on the sponsor front - with the team having lost backing from the Baugur Group, Lenovo and Petrobras over the winter.
However, Parr said that with other team sponsors having increased their budgets for this season - the main one being Philips – there were no worries about the short term finances for the team.
"We had 10 of our partners renew with us," said Parr. "Four of those partners that renewed or extended with us were major upgrades, and they at least doubled their investment 2009 compared to 2008.
"So, from a sponsorship revenue side, we came out pretty well year-on-year. The FOM revenues (television rights money) are stronger this year compared to last year, and we have significant cost savings coming through as a result of limited testing and a reduction in engine costs. As an example we are planning on using 20 engines compared to 55 last year.
"Overall we've got a very solid budget for this year. I don't want to claim to you it is everything we would like, but we are in advanced negotiations to bring new partners to the team for this season."
Parr said he also felt bullish that there were companies out there able to step into RBS's shoes and become major backers of Williams in the future.
"We have a budget for this season and it is reasonable budget. For 2010 the position is similar and 90 percent of the budget for this year is contracted for that year. And there will be further cost savings...I am confident that in time for 2011 we will have a very strong portfolio of sponsors in place. We have a broad range of partners and no individual partner is make or break for this team."
He also blasted recent reports in the media criticising RBS's involvement in F1 against the backdrop of the bank's funding from the taxpayer.