Williams Team Principal admits losing 0.45s / lap to shock car design flaw

Alex Gassman

by Alex Gassman

WIlliams F1

In the run up to the Imola GP weekend, Williams F1 team principal James Vowels has announced to the media a shocking and basic design flaw that’s costing his cars around 0.45 seconds per lap.

Williams' problems weigh heavy on Vowles

The Williams F1 team principal has revealed a significant issue with their 2024 Formula 1 car, the FW46, that’s causing them a defecit of around 0.45 seconds per lap compared to the other cars on the grid. 

Team principal James Vowles disclosed that the car has been running over the minimum weight limit of 798kg. The general concesus within the sport is that 10kg over costs you around 0.3 seconds a lap, so 0.45 seconds would equate to their car being around 15kg overweight.

This revelation came ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, with Vowles shedding light on the challenges the team has faced this season in front of the media.

Image licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Vowles explained that while the chassis was significantly improved for 2024, with the team taking 14kg out of it. But the chassis’ weight reduction was offset by increased weight in other components. “Despite the chassis being in a much better place, we added an enormous amount of weight,” Vowles stated. 

This admission highlights an endemic issue within Williams’ car development processes, where weight has been a consistent challenge since 2019. Vowles described the 14kg reduction in the chassis as an “extraordinary feat,” but acknowledged that the rushed and late car-build process over the winter of 2023 led to compromises elsewhere. 

This has left Williams at a disadvantage compared to all the other teams who have managed to meet the weight limit.

The team has now initiated a series of updates aimed at shedding the excess weight, starting with Alex Albon’s car at Imola and followed by Logan Sargeant’s car. 

Image licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Vowles emphasized that this is part of a broader effort to modernize the team’s infrastructure, processes, and culture. He has been transparent about the challenges Williams faces, as he believes openness is crucial for driving change within the team.

“We’ve hindered ourselves. It’s a damage bill that I just wouldn’t believe would’ve happened in three races, but that’s where we are,” Vowles said, referring to the extensive damage costs the team has incurred early in the season.

 “I’m not proud of any of these stats but the reason why I’ve been open and transparent about it is that’s a red line and this is where it stops and from here onwards we produce cars that are effectively up to where they need to be.”

Image licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Vowles has made it his mission to transform Williams from a team struggling with outdated processes to one capable of leading the way in F1. This includes increasing the team’s staff from 700 to 1000 and bringing in new talent from top teams like Red Bull and Ferrari.

“The more that you have excellence, the more that you are able to bring the team up to: this is where we need to be, this is how we get there, this is how we move forward,” Vowles explained.

The transparency about these issues is part of a strategy to end the reliance on overweight components and ensure future cars meet competitive standards. The updates at Imola are just the beginning, with further weight reductions planned over the next six races to improve performance.

Williams’ commitment to addressing this weight issue is crucial for their competitiveness. As Vowles noted, “Imola is the start of weight being shed, that will now continue across the next six races, fundamentally, in order to get us back to where we need to be.”

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Alex Gassman

I‘m Alex. I write F1 and motorsport travel guides based on my experience as racing driver and full-time motorsport nerd. I’ve traveled the world watching F1 and other racing series.

I started oversteer48 with the aim of helping other motorsport fans who are planning on watching some racing themselves.

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Join the oversteer48 F1 Insider's club

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