Andrew Hope, who had worked for Williams for 17 years and reported directly to technical director Patrick Head, was dismissed from his £120,000 a year job in July 2002 without going through the formal dismissal procedure, the panel said.
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However, although the tribunal said the Williams team had acted “naively”, it refused to award Hope any compensation because of his “high level of incompetence” at managing Williams’ IT support unit.
The tribunal was particularly critical of Hope's approach to software licensing. "It is such a basic matter that licences are required for the use of software that the failure to ensure these matters were kept up to date demonstrates real incompetence," the panel said in its written decision.
During the week-long hearing, the tribunal heard that Hope’s role as manager had already been diluted when an independent audit that was initiated after staff complaints and resignations concluded he would bully staff and not listen to them.
Hope told the panel he had not been told there were any problems with his management style. The panel also heard that Hope retained 200 important documents belongong to Williams after he was dismiised. It concluded that Hope had, in the main, been responsible for his own departure.
“If any fair procedure had been carried out, such as a formal hearing, the tribunal is satisfied that would make no difference to the conclusion that trust and confidence in the applicant had broken down,” the panel said.
Williams Formula 1 Racing Team and Hope were unavailable for comment.