Williams is one of the most historic Formula One teams, having been ever-present on the F1 grid since 1978.
The team, based in Grove, Oxfordshire, has the third most race wins and podiums of any team in Formula One’s history and has produced seven World Champions.
However, Williams has been on a downward spiral for a few years, finishing bottom of the table in 2018 (seven points) and 2019 (one point). In 2017, they finished fifth.
The last time one of Sir Frank Williams’ cars appeared on an F1 podium was at Azerbaijan in 2017 where Lance Stroll took an unlikely third place in one of the most action-packed races in recent memory.
Ever since Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa left the team in 2016 and 2017 respectively, Williams seems to have lost all form whatsoever, and, sadly, it only seems to be getting worse.
Before the start of the 2018 season, Williams’ title sponsor Martini announced it would leave the team and Formula One at the end of the year, and in May 2020, their new title sponsor ROKiT announced they immediately terminated their deal with the British team.
Recently, Williams revealed they had made a loss of £13 million in 2019, and that the team and wider company group are up for sale.
Williams isn’t the only team struggling on the money front, though.
Both McLaren and Renault are also facing financial hardship, having to furlough staff and cut jobs as part of a money-saving plan due to the losses brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carlos Sainz, who will move to Ferrari in 2021, and Lando Norris have taken voluntary pay-cuts and ‘a number’ of staff have been furloughed to try and help McLaren save money throughout the pandemic.
Renault meanwhile is cutting 15,000 jobs – 10% of their workforce – in an aim to save £1.8 billion due to the plummeting sales in 2020.
Fortunately for them, both teams will remain on the grid, but that is not guaranteed for Williams.
Claire Williams, team principal and daughter of former boss Sir Frank, stated that: “we are fully funded throughout the remainder of the year” and “I have every confidence we will find the investment we need.”
Williams certainly wouldn’t be the first F1 team to pull out due to financial trouble.
If the team doesn't appear on the grid in 2021, they will join the likes of Caterham (formerly Lotus), HRT, Manor (formerly Virgin Racing and Marussia) and Force India to leave F1 in the last 10 years.
Despite performing poorly for the last few years, Williams would be inarguably one of the greatest teams to stop racing in F1, alongside the original Lotus team, Brabham and Benetton.
If Williams does not race in 2021, and another team doesn’t take their place, the 2021 season will be the first year to feature fewer than 10 teams since 1958, and the grid will see the fewest cars since the infamous 2005 US Grand Prix at Indianapolis where just six cars lined up on the starting grid.
However, it is hard to see how anyone would not buy a team as historic and as legendary as Williams and try to rebuild it to become the title challenger it once was.
Could we perhaps see a similar situation to Force India in 2018, where Lawrence Stroll, father of driver Lance Stroll, bought the team and the Formula One entry?
Only this time, it would be through rookie driver Nicholas Latifi and his father Michael, the CEO of a large food company.
But it might not actually be needed.
All Formula One team's agreed to a cost-cutting package, lowering the budget cap by $30 million to $145 million. This would then be reduced by $5 million in 2022 then another $5 million from 2023-25.
One part of this package involves restricting aerodynamic development for the most successful teams.
With the new rule changes for 2021 being pushed back a year, this gives teams an extra year to come up with designs and therefore would put the more successful teams such as Mercedes and Ferrari at a greater advantage.
However, the cost-cutting package means that the winning constructor will only be allowed 90% of the R&D (research and development) quota, and the further down the table the teams finish, the more money they are allowed to put into R&D, which could allow teams such as Williams to catch up.
Once the new rules and regulations are in place in 2022, the winners will be limited to 70% of the R&D allowance, whereas last place will be allowed 115%, again providing some hope for the backmarkers like Williams, Alfa Romeo and possibly AlphaTauri.
Furthermore, all teams are required to race their 2020-spec cars in 2021, potentially saving a year’s worth of R&D money since they don’t have to develop a new car.
In pre-season testing, Williams appeared to have the pace of mid-field runners and was only 0.1 seconds off the pace of Red Bull, and seventh fastest overall.
Their actual race pace remains to be seen, alongside all the other teams due to the heavily delayed start to the 2020 season, but hopefully, we will see a glimmer of hope for the historic British team.
In George Russell and Nicholas Latifi, they have two talented drivers with Russell eyeing up a future Mercedes seat, and Latifi finishing runner-up in the 2019 F2 Championship.
The pairing has managed to take Williams to the top of the Virtual Grand Prix ‘Championship’ but it is unlikely we will see either of them on a real-life podium in a Williams car.
If Williams can score points in this reduced 2020 season, it would almost certainly help them financially, but is it too little too late?
Williams has to stay in Formula One, and if they do end up bankrupt, the world of motorsport will mourn a heavy loss to racing.
This article was written exclusively for golear.co.uk