Vowles admits overweight FW46 is key to Williams form

Adam Cooper
18/05/2024

Williams Formula 1 boss James Vowles says that an overweight car has hindered the team in recent seasons – and that this weekend’s race at Imola sees the start of a programme to address the issue.

Vowles says that the team managed to reduce the chassis weight by 14kgs between 2023 and 2024, which represents a significant saving. However increases in other areas as the team rushed to complete the car in time for Bahrain testing put the overall package added more weight to the overall package.

Vowles says that the extra weight has cost Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant 0.450s a lap thus far this season, which suggests that the FW46 is around 15kgs above the limit.

“We have produced cars that are not at the weight limit – and I only went back and looked unfortunately, too late – every year since 2019,” he said.

“None of the cars have started at the weight limit, they’ve been far up above it. To give you a view of the pit lane at the moment, everyone out there is near enough at the weight limit, and very few will have physical ballast on the car. Very, very few.

“The transformation we did between 2023 to ‘24 was that we took 14kgs out of the chassis. And for anyone in the business that knows those numbers, you’ll realise that’s an extraordinary feat, the team did very well in doing that.

“However, the car this year that we’ve been running is about four and a half tenths a lap slower every lap by the fact that it’s so overweight.”

Albon

ALBON Alexander (tha), Williams Racing FW46, portrait during the Formula 1 Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix 2024, 6th round of the 2024 Formula One World Championship from May 3 to 5, 2024 on the Miami International Autodrome, in Miami, United States of America

Vowles says that the extra weight accumulated largely because the team has traditionally been late in completing the new car build during the winter, and thus compromises are made in the latter stages as the deadline of the first test approaches.

“What happens when you challenge the system and the technology is you can get an output from it,” he said. “And the output from it is things get delayed, and weight gets added is one of the fixes in order to get you back on track.

“And we added an enormous amount of weight – despite the chassis being in a much better place, we added an enormous amount of weight.

“And when I went back through the history of us, of how we operate, with these facilities, with the systems, with the process and structures we have, weight became the natural outlet for it. And as a result of that we’ve been overweight for many, many years.

“What we gave Alex is a car that he’s been openly speaking about as much better balanced, it’s a much better package. If you take four and a half tenths off, you’ll have a realisation as to why Alex has been sat here frustrated.

“What’s not of interest to me is what’s happened. It’s how we move forward from this point on.

“So 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.”

Vowles also admitted that attempts to save weight and develop the car have been hindered by the accident damage incurred thus far this year, which has soaked up resources.

“What’s hindered us is that across the beginning of the season, we have damaged four gearboxes beyond repair, we have damaged five floors, we have damaged four front wings, four rear wings, and some miscellaneous bits,” he noted.

Any team on the grid, go speak to them, you can’t deal with that plus taking out weight, plus adding aerodynamic performance we’ve hinted ourselves. So the damage bill I just couldn’t believe would have happened at three races.

“But that’s where we are. I’m not proud of any of these facts. But the reason why I’m being open and transparent about it is that’s a red line.

“And this is where it stops and downwards. we produce cars that are effectively up to where they need to be. Williams for many years has had some great people working on items.

“But it’s incredibly expensive, taking weight out of the car and a lot of what we’ve been doing, I did it last year when I joined here is taking weight out. It’s very inefficient in doing it. And that stops now and that’s one of the foundations moving forwards.”

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