With no sponsorship money coming in, the proud garagistas of Williams Racing have struggled harder than younger, more efficient rival outfits to stay afloat during the race season-ruining, rule change-forcing COVID-19 pandemic. Its staff furloughed, its executives’ pay cut, and its other streams of income all but exhausted, Williams has reportedly been forced to take out an emergency loan to stay solvent, and from none other than the father of its rookie driver Nicholas Latifi.
Nicholas’s father Michael Latifi, a multinational business magnate and a minority owner of McLaren, has extended a $62 million (£50 million) line of credit to the team according to Which Car, with Williams’s crown jewels as collateral. Offered in return for the loan, which will reportedly be used to pay existing creditors, is the team’s headquarters, its race entry, and much of the team’s fleet of historic F1 cars.
Failure to repay the loan will reportedly place ownership of the team part and parcel in Latifi’s hands. This infusion of Canadian funds into a struggling F1 team echoes the 2018 takeover of Vijay Mallya-owned Force India by the father of one of its drivers, Lawrence Stroll, who has since used the economic downturn caused by coronavirus to spread his roots into the team’s pending title sponsor Aston Martin.
More teams may yet be forced to make similar arrangements according to McLaren team principal Zak Brown, who told the BBC he foresees up to four teams collapsing under the strain of COVID-19.
“Could I see—through what is going on right now in the world if we don’t tackle this situation head-on very aggressively—two teams disappearing? Yeah, in fact, I could see four teams disappearing if this isn’t handled the right way,” Brown told the outlet. “And then, given how long it takes to ramp up an F1 team, and given the economic and health crisis we are in right now, to think there would be people lined up to take over those teams like there has historically been… I don’t think the timing could be worse from that standpoint. So I think F1 is in a very fragile state at the moment.”
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