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Williams pay price for better performance on track

By Keith Weir

LONDON (Reuters) - Investment to restore the on-track performance at Formula One team Williams pushed the former world champions into a financial loss in the first six months of the year, the team's owner said on Friday.

Williams have enjoyed a racing revival this season and have 150 points and stand fourth in the team standings ahead of this weekend's Italian grand prix. Last year, the team managed only five points all season.

That improvement came at a price, with parent company Williams Grand Prix Holdings reporting an operating loss of 17 million pounds ($27.75 million) in the first half of 2014.

"These financial results are in line with the board’s expectation of what is required to rebuild and reinvigorate the team," Chief Executive Mike O'Driscoll said.

"We believe that they reflect the transitionary period that we must continue to work through if we are to realize the potential of the group," he added.

Williams, which is also developing a specialist engineering business, is the only Formula One team whose shares trade on a stock market. The shares are listed on the Frankfurt exchange.

O'Driscoll said that the team were talking to a number of potential partners for next season, having agreed a long-term deal this season to have Italian drinks group Martini as its title sponsor.

The team hope to retain the services of drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas for 2015.

Formula One teams receive monthly payments based on where they finished the previous season. Williams would be in line to get an additional $20 million in 2015 if they finish fourth this season, having ended last season in ninth place out of 11 teams.

Despite their poor form, Williams made a profit last year thanks to a one-off payment from sponsor PDVSA for early termination of a sponsorship deal linked to Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado.

($1 = 0.6126 British Pounds)

(Editing by Ian Ransom)

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