By Abhishek Takle
BAKU (Reuters) – Williams are not for sale, the Formula One team’s deputy principal Claire Williams said on Friday after reports of possible Russian interest.
There had been speculation that fertiliser billionaire Dmitry Mazepin was considering investing in the former world champions.
Williams told reporters at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix that the team was not about to change hands and there had been no recent talks with Mazepin.
“We had a brief conversation in the mid-part of last year, but subsequent to that there have been no conversations,” said the daughter of the team’s co-founder Frank Williams.
“I’d just like to be really categorical about it: Williams is not for sale.
“I want to go out and prove that we can do what we are in this sport to do — and that’s to get back on the podium and to win races again,” she added.
Williams are the third most successful team in Formula One history in terms of race wins, behind only Ferrari and McLaren, but their most recent victory was in 2012 and they are bottom of this year’s standings.
This season has been particularly troubled, with their car late to testing and drivers Robert Kubica and Mercedes-backed rookie George Russell consistently qualifying at the back of the field.
The team lost lucrative title sponsorship from Martini last year and have replaced the drinks brand with telecoms company Rokit.
The team were in the headlines again on Friday after Russell struck a loose manhole cover during the opening practice session in Baku, which destroyed the underside of his car and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage.
“I think certainly in times like this, that the team is going through at the moment, these rumours always come up,” said Claire Williams.
“But with a business head on, when your team isn’t doing well selling at this juncture wouldn’t be the right time to do so,” she added.
Mazepin, whose son Nikita races in the Formula Two feeder series, bid for the failing Force India last year through the potash company Uralkali which he co-owns.
Uralkali announced legal action against Force India’s administrators after the team’s assets were sold to a consortium led by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll.
That team are now competing under the Racing Point name with Stroll’s son Lance one of the drivers.
(Editing by Alan Baldwin and Ed Osmond)