The news that Williams Grand Prix Holdings, the parent group of the Williams F1 team, has announced a loss for 2014 of £34.3 million ($52 million) should not be seen as the disaster that it might, at first appear. Accounting is on complicated world and for example the company’s sponsorship for 2014 from Pastor Maldonado was deemed to be part of the 2013 accounts, while the prize money won in 2014 will not be included until the 2015 accounts. The team also has new sponsorship revenues from Unilever, Avenade, BT and others coming that may have been agree in 2014 but will not be booked until 2015. Thus the results do not mean that Williams has a $52 million hole in its bank account, but rather that the numbers have been split between the financial years. This is often advantageous from the point of view of taxation, although it is very hard to know what the accountants set out to achieve.
“Our much improved performance in the 2014 Championship will be seen in higher commercial rights and sponsorship income in 2015, coupled with improved performance from our Advanced Engineering division,” says Mike O’Driscoll, the group CEO. “Our ambition in 2015 is to consolidate the progress we made last year, continue building the necessary foundations for future sporting and commercial success, and consequently to materially improve our financial results for the coming years.”
Williams is unusual in F1 in that it has to publish its accounts in a clear and timely fashion because it is listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange. Other teams are able to obscure their results by different means, notably the use of parent or sister companies to confuse the numbers.
Williams is still not a rich team but the turnaround is moving forwards after a decade in which there was a general slide backwards. The decision to go with Mercedes engines was obviously a good choice and there is little doubt that in the longer term the team will be looking to partner with a manufacturer, as used to be the case from the 1980s onwards when the team paired successfully with Honda, Renault and ultimately BMW. Attracting more manufacturers to F1 at the moment is not an easy task but the sport is in a period of change and new car companies may come in once things have calmed down – if they do.