The departure of Williams chairman Adam Parr came very much out
of the blue for most fans. Less than a month ago team principal Sir
Frank Williams had backed the former Rio Tinto chairman to "fill
the gap" should he be unable to continue at the head of the famous
racing team, whilst Parr himself told a British newspaper that he
"can't imagine doing anything else" just prior to the beginning of
Naturally then, Parr's sudden decision to seek a "better balance
in his life" is coming under some scrutiny. Williams are currently
riding high - Bruno Senna's sixth place in the Malaysia Grand Prix
was testament to the team's resurgence, and they could have more
than double their eight points on the board if it were not for
Pastor Maldonado's various last lap woes. Nevertheless, the
technical changes that Parr himself implemented in the wake of last
year's miserable campaign have gone some way to restoring the team
But then, Parr is a businessman rather than a racer. But in the
financial stakes too, Williams are on solid ground. The 46 year-old
former Etonian has delivered multi-million pound end of year
profits for the last three years, and was instrumental in securing
the team's place on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, as well as
encouraging diversification in the form of Williams Hybrid Power -
the company set up to bring Formula 1 KERS technology to the
market, with some notable successes so far.
It is clear that Williams are in far better form as a business
and a racing team than they were even twelve months ago, and that
has occurred under Parr's leadership. Having started the long
journey back to the top, the team have no desire for further
change. In fact, the last twelve months have seen a mass exodus:
founders Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head departed the board,
designers Sam Michael, Gavin Fisher and Jon Tomlinson felt
compelled to resign and veteran Rubens Barrichello was forced
reluctantly from the driver line-up. Throughout the turmoil, Parr
remained sat in the chairman's office. Now he too is gone.
So, if Parr and Williams were happy and all set to enjoy the
fruits of their labours, why has he gone? The Telegraph suggests
that he was "the victim of a power struggle". Several pundits have
pointed towards the sour relationship between the former lawyer and
Bernie Ecclestone, the man who has ruled over the sport with an
iron fist for the last three decades. Bernie does not enjoy being
told what to do - and this is where Parr may have fallen foul.
Since he joined Williams back in 2006, he has been more than happy
to spread discontent about the way the sport is run. In the summer
of last year, he suggested that there are "fundamental problems" in
the way Formula 1 is managed, and proclaimed that the teams should
"challenge" the sport's supremo. Inevitably, there was speculation
that Parr saw himself in the eighty-one year old's job.
Last week, the majority of the teams announced their intention
to sign an extension of the current Concorde Agreement. Williams
was not one of them. This is surprising given that amidst the
breakaway talks of 2009, Williams were amongst the first to commit
themselves to the sport. This is the way it has always been, with
Sir Frank rarely finding any cause to oppose the FOM president.
This time, speculation suggests that Parr tried to use the team -
one of the few with any value to their brand - as leverage for his
own demands. Ecclestone, who earlier this year suggested that
"changes should have come from above" at Grove, may have had a
starring role in Parr's sudden departure.
There is little doubt that Williams will continue in Formula 1.
They have multi-year contracts with sponsors and engine supplier
Renault, and their core business - unlike many teams - remains
racing. Their refusal to sign up beyond this year is likely to have
been nothing more than a negotiating ploy, and perhaps it came as a
fatal blow to Parr's fledgling career in the sport. Ecclestone, who
is a long standing friend of Sir Frank Williams and has in the past
helped them out with advances of television rights money and
"heritage payments", need only to have had a quiet word in his old
associate's ear to silence the irritant.
And so, the love-in of February has given way to a surprise
split. Whether Parr really did feel a previously undetected urge to
spend more time with his family remains up for debate - but for
many pundits, there is more to his unscheduled departure than meets
the eye. Whatever the reasoning, the only way for new chairman Nick
Rose to stem the dispute is to deliver further success both on and
off the track.