THERE are fears of jobs losses at one of the country's top Formula One teams after Williams F1 announced it had made a loss of £13m.

The racing and construction company, which is a major employer in Grove, near Wantage, said it was considering selling up after a severe dip in the company’s finances for 2019. The loss for 2019 stands against profits of £12.9m in 2018.

Announcing its plans in a statement, it said a "formal sale process is the right and prudent thing to do", adding that options being considered included a "potential sale of the whole company".

Williams is one of the most successful teams in Formula One history, with nine Constructors’ Championships under its belt.

Down the years it has also boasted some of the greatest drivers in the sport, including Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill.

However, last season it finished rock bottom of the championships, scoring just a single point all season.

Business and community leaders in the area said they would be sad to see the company go, saying the company had been ‘big supporters’ of the area.

Julie Mabberley of the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group, said: “We’d be very sad if Williams F1 closed its offices in Grove as it is currently one of the major employers in the area. We hope that any change in ownership will not change the strong relationship between the company and the local community.”

Echoing the concerns, the Vale of White Horse District Council leader, Emily Smith, said: “Williams F1 is an important and valued employer in the Vale.

“As well as the racing team, their conference centre and the Advanced Engineering part of the business employs many highly skilled engineers and other staff at their headquarters in Grove.

“It is not yet clear what the outcome of this sale announcement will be, but we will continue to work closely with Williams and any potential future buyer to support their role in the local economy and the wider community.”

Williams was founded by Frank Williams in 1977 and was based in an empty carpet warehouse in Didcot before it moved to Grove.

Wantage Mayor, Jim Sibbald, said that he was confident the family would still work alongside the community ‘however they can’.

He said: “Sir Frank Williams and his daughter Claire have been employers and supporters of the local community for many years and with the potential sale of part of the Williams set of companies, I am sure they would like to continue this in whatever way they can.”

The company last night said it had not received any formal approaches, but confirmed ‘preliminary discussions’ with possible investors.

It also said that despite the change of approach, the company had both the funds and the intent to reclaim its place on the grid when racing returns.

The statement from the company – Williams Grand Prix Holdings (WGPH)– said: “Any interested party participating in the formal sale process will be required to enter into a non-disclosure agreement with WGPH on terms satisfactory to the WGPH board.

"The company then intends to provide such interested parties with certain information on the business, following which interested parties will be invited to submit their proposals.

"While the company has faced a number of challenges, Williams currently remains funded and ready to resume racing when the calendar allows in 2020."

Williams' F1 revenue declined by more than £35m to £95.4m and chief executive Mike O'Driscoll admitted a downturn in results had been a contributing factor to the current difficulties.

"The financial results for 2019 reflect the recent decline in competitiveness of the F1 operation and the consequent reduction in commercial rights income," he said.

"After four years of very solid performance in the FIA F1 Constructors' Championship during which we claimed two third- and two fifth-place finishes, we endured a couple of very difficult seasons. We have implemented a significant restructuring over the last nine months and have strengthened the technical leadership team.

"There has been an enormous gap in earnings and expenditure between the three largest teams and the rest of the grid for a number of years, but we are confident that Liberty Media's long-term vision and plans, including a first-ever cost-cap for the sport, will deliver a more level playing field for 2021 and beyond, on which all teams can compete more fairly."