ANALYSIS: Why Williams split with Capito and Demaison – and what’s next for the team from Grove?
It’s all change at Williams, with Team Principal Jost Capito and Technical Director FX Demaison leaving Formula 1’s second most successful team. F1 Correspondent Lawrence Barretto looks at why the duo are moving on and what lies ahead for the British team…
This has been a difficult period for Williams, the team founded by Sir Frank Williams and Sir Patrick Head. Once titans of the sport, with nine constructors’ championships and seven drivers’ titles under their belt, Williams now find themselves languishing at the back.
When American investment firm Dorilton Capital bought the team from the Williams family in 2020, it heralded the dawn of a new era for the team. Dorilton pumped money into the operation, putting the team on a steady footing, upgrading their Grove facility and drafting in Capito – with 40 years of experience across motorsport, including incredible success with Volkswagen in the World Rally Championship.
The initial signs were positive, with Williams moving from the lowest point in their history to eighth in the constructors’ last year. However, this was helped hugely by George Russell’s sensational podium in the rain-shortened Belgian Grand Prix.
The team dropped to the back of the field in 2022, having failed to make a leap forward with revolutionary new technical rules introduced for this year. They managed eight points, the majority of which were scored by Alex Albon – who was recruited by Capito to replace Russell.
Capito made sweeping changes after 100 days in charge, reorganising the technical team and attempting to change the culture. He also put a focus on trying to enhance the brand – with a big push to boost their profile in the United States of America.
However, his recruitment of Demaison – who he worked with at Volkswagen and was known to have experience of ground effect and simulation – appears to have been seen as an error by the new owners. The car underperformed this year – and sources say the team have been anticipating 2023 will be another difficult year based on the current design.
There has been high turnover within Williams over the last couple of years, either because staff have been let go or they have chosen to leave – and that has made gelling the operation more challenging.
However, despite the difficult season, it seemed as if Capito would stay on for a third year. It is believed the 64-year-old accepted that it would require at least five years to turn Williams’ fortunes around.
However, Dorilton have decided that Capito is not the right person to lead the team going forward and they also lay blame at the door of Demaison, who is ultimately responsible for the technical team.
As a result, Capito and Demaison have left, paving the way for Williams to appoint a new management team they hope can take the team forward.
The team’s Achilles’ heel has been the technical structure. When Capito joined, he found trackside engineering and factory engineering were not aligned. They were reporting into different channels.
This was a legacy of Paddy Lowe vacating the role of Technical Director and the team opting not to fill it under previous management. You must go back to the period before that, when Pat Symonds was the technical lead, to find Williams’ most recent sustained success.
It takes a significant amount of time in Formula 1 to build up a technical structure and get it working in an efficient and competitive manner. Some teams have spent decades trying to get it right.
For Williams to change Technical Director twice in five years is not ideal – and is a big reason why their progress has stunted.
If they can get the next appointment right, the new signing then has three seasons to get the operation in good shape to take advantage of the new regulations set for 2026.
That is some wait – and even then, huge leaps up the field are difficult to achieve in modern F1. But that patience is needed to succeed in F1. Dorilton are committed to making the project work – and have the funds to succeed. Their next move, though, is critical to achieving their goals.