Williams furlough staff and cut pay as McLaren warns F1 in a 'fragile state'

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Williams has become the second Formula 1 team to announce they are temporarily furloughing staff with others take pay cuts due to the impact from COVID-19.

The financial health of the British team has been called into question in recent years as a result of their increasingly poor results on track leading to a loss of income.

Publicly, however, the team insists they have been still been solid due to sponsorship deals and other measures.

But due to the current coronavirus crisis, now Williams has decided to furlough staff until the end of May, meaning 80 per cent of their salaries will come from the UK government, while drivers, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi, plus senior management have taken a 20 per cent pay cut from the start of April.

"These decisions have not been taken lightly, however, our aim is to protect the jobs of our staff at Grove and ensuring they can return to full-time work when the situation allows," a statement concluded.

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Due to the coronavirus, F1 is facing a severe loss of revenue this year with eight races already postponed or cancelled and more expected to follow,

That has already resulted in teams agreeing to delay the new regulations planned for next year until 2022 at the earliest, but McLaren CEO Zak Brown fears much more will need to be done to stop multiple teams collapsing.

“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? Yes,” he told BBC Sport.

“In fact, I could see four teams disappearing if this isn’t handled the right way.

“This is potentially devastating to teams, and if [it is devastating] to enough teams - which doesn’t have to mean more than two - then very threatening to F1 as a whole.

“So I think F1 is in a very fragile state at the moment.”

The American believes the best measure would be to lower the new budget cap from $175m next year to as little as $100m and thinks at least one top team, likely Red Bull, would be onboard.

By not doing so, Brown warns teams may simply decide to leave F1 regardless of their financial situation.

"If we don’t make an aggressive enough budget cap and some people feel they have to top up this year and have no chance of getting it back, then they ask themselves: Why are they in it?" he said.

“I don’t think anyone competes in F1 just to make up the numbers.”

Before Williams, McLaren was the first team to use the furloughing measure introduced by the British government as the economic impact from the coronavirus began to bite.

And the CEO explained why that call that was made.

“While we’re a well-funded racing team everyone has their limits - and as it relates to F1, it is no secret we lose a lot of money and my shareholders want value creation out of F1. So just letting the losses widen is not an option," he said.

“I think there is a real danger in F1 that we as an industry can put our head in the sand on topics and now is not the time to put your head in the sand.”