McLaren Provides Key Williams Recruit

McLaren Provides Key Williams Recruit

As Williams struggles to regain some degree of competitiveness from the tail end of grand prix racing, the family-owned team has signed a new director of F1.

He is Simon Roberts, a former McLaren and Force India executive who is tasked with overseeing the design and development process, the racing, factory operations and planning.

Sir Frank Williams understood 15 years ago that he needed to find a new leader for the future and as long ago as 2005 appointed Chris Chapple as CEO. He was followed in 2006 by Adam Parr, who lasted until 2012.

Toto Wolff took over as executive director for a year before he left to join Mercedes.

That left Claire Williams as deputy team principal with Mike O’Driscoll running the business side of the team as CEO. The problem has been the running of the team itself and after a debacle last year with Paddy Lowe, who departed after Williams missed the start of F1 testing and struggled with a car which ran right at the back through the season, the team has been looking for someone to run the racing operations, while Doug McKiernan has led the technical side of the business.

That key signing is Roberts, who departed McLaren after more than 15 years with the team but then had to sit through a year of ‘gardening leave’ when he was not able to work for any of McLaren’s rivals.

His task at Williams is to help get the team back on track and he will report to O’Driscoll. Claire will remain the deputy team principal but will do less of the day-to-day work.

Roberts comes to Williams with a good reputation from McLaren.

Trained as a mechanical engineer at Manchester University, he started his career with the diesel company Perkins before being appointed chief engineer of diesel engines with the Rover Group.

He was heavily involved in the merger of the BMW and Rover powertrain groups after the British company was acquired by BMW in 1994 and stayed until Rover was sold to Ford in 2000. He then spent a couple of years as operations director of Alstom before joining McLaren as general manager in 2003.

He became operations director with the Woking team in 2006 but then spent a year as the chief operating officer at Force India, on secondment from McLaren, before returning to in 2010 and was later promoted to Chief Operations Officer in 2017.

Roberts will join a number of other former McLaren people now working at Grove, including McKiernan and team manager Dave Redding.

The team is keen to go racing in 2020 to see how much improvement there has been with the new car after last year’s tough season with the troublesome and uncompetitive FW42. the team has the basis for a decent level of performance with a Mercedes engines but it has been unable to get things together in recent years.