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James Vowles Reveals “20 Years of Underinvestment” as the Reason Williams is Struggling

Williams team principal, James Vowles, has explained what has been holding the team back in recent years and how they aim to improve things in the future....

It costs a lot of money to run an F1 team, and it costs even more to run a successful F1 team. Without out, a team will slip further and further down the grid. So when a team suffers from chronic underspending, it will not achieve the desired results. Williams team principal, James Vowles, highlights this as the main reason for the team’s lack of victories since 2012. Luckily, that issue seems to have been resolved. 

Having arrived from Mercedes, Vowles knows a thing or two about how a successful team is run and is up for the challenge to return Williams to their former glory according to statements he made at the FIA press conference in Canada. 

While “20 years of under investment” is why Williams are in the position they are in, Vowles believes that he’s “in a fortunate position that [his] predecessors weren’t.” Namely, “[Williams] have investment, significant investment behind [them].” 

“In fact, there is a strong desire to have Williams return back to a competitive position,” said Vowles. “But to do that requires investment. So the money’s available and ready.” 

The problem is that the available money isn’t being spent on the car, but rather on “basic infrastructure”. 

Credit: Williams Racing

“So if I take an example of things that were in Williams,” Vowles explained, “and this is being very transparent about it, when a designer releases a part, it sort of goes into a black hole. 

“And then there’s emails going backwards and forwards between production to try and figure out where their part is, how it’s being upgraded, how big it is, how long it will take. Normally, that would go into a digital system that can be tracked, so you understand actually, what does the car get made up of.

“And bear in mind, there are 17,000 components and by the time you have designers doing this 17,000 times, you get lost. So you have inefficiencies. That software to fix that isn’t, unfortunately, 100 pounds, but that’s millions and even up to tens of millions if you get it right.”

"That's Not How Formula 1 Works Anymore"

Many changes have to be made, and have been made, at Williams to ensure that the outfit can be competitive in the future. These range from basic practices and infrastructure as highlighted, but also a change in the team’s culture. 

“The best way to describe [the culture] is that the team was in survival mode,” Vowles added, “where what it was thinking about was what do we need to get ready for the next race to go forward. 

“That’s not how Formula 1 works anymore.

“What you’re thinking about now, already, is 2024, 2025, and 2026. And if you’re not thinking that far ahead, you’re going to fall behind against competitors that are. 

“And that cultural change will take quite a while to properly kick in because it’s very different. You’re now not thinking about the carbon bits appearing in Montreal, but you’re thinking about what do you want the car to look like in two years’ time.”

Vowles has said that this “direction” is what has helped “everyone understand how we are going to pull ourselves out of the performance region we are in today.” 

In January 2023, It was discovered that Williams had received a £36 million investment tallying up a total of £100 million invested in the team by Dorilton Capital since the firm bought the team in 2020. 

This is a hopeful sign for the team that despite the team having reported an £11.9 million loss in 2021, the owners are still attempting to improve Williams’ fortunes. 


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