Williams lags on the race track, but profit accelerates to £30m

Contracts come to an end, revving up the figures of a team making little headway in Formula One championship
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The Independent Online

The Williams Formula One motor racing team drove home profits of £30m last year, one of the highest figures ever recorded by an F1 team and a surge on 2004's profits of £1m.

Yet the upturn in its finances was not down to improved on-track performance. The team finished fifth in the 2005 F1 constructors' championship, compared to fourth in 2004, and its turnover - mainly sponsorship revenues and prize money - decreased by £5m year on year. Instead, severance payments from lucrative deals brought in £35m of additional operating income.

Two high-profile deals came to an early end in 2005. Star British driver Jenson Button broke a three-year contract with the team, which was due to begin at the start of this season, when he decamped to rival Honda. It is thought that Button agreed to pay out around $32m (£17m) to terminate the contract.

Williams also lost its engine supply deal with BMW after the German car giant decided to set up its own team. BMW was contracted to provide engines for Williams until 2009, in exchange for sponsorship rights.

The team's sponsorship deal with US tech giant Hewlett-Packard also came to an end last year. HP was one of Williams' top sponsors, paying an estimated £20m a year.