James Vowles reveals the overweight problem that Williams has been facing for years, but finally getting to solve it from F1 Imola GP onward.

After Alpine admitted itself to be overweight, Williams have come around to do in a honest admission from team boss Vowles during his media session in F1 Imola GP. He noted the team to be losing around 0.45s per lap due to the overweight situation.

He said despite the team having shed off 14 kgs from its chassis from 2023 to 2024, the car overall is still well beyond its weight limit of 798 kg since the team has been unable to look at developing and producing other parts.

Their season has been marred with incidents which delayed even the introduction of a third chassis. This only added to the pressure back at Grove in bringing updates on the car. Vowles notes that weight saving measures are already in place.

They started with it already but this weekend’s Imola GP will be first major package to trim the weight albeit only Alexander Albon will get those. It will take them at least six more races to lower the weight but they will still not 100% solve the problem.

Vowles says he saw this problem when he joined but it was too late to bring any changes. Since it is a time consuming and expensive process, it will take them time to fix it. “I’ll give you a reasoning as to why we have struggled,” he said. “So this is very open and transparent, you won’t get this near enough from most teams on the grid.

“We have produced cars that are not at the weight limit when I went back and looked and I only went and looked when it was too late unfortunately. Every year since I’ve started in 2019 none of the cars have started up at the weight, they’ve been far above it. To give you the view of the pitlane at the moment, everyone out there is near enough of the weight limit, every car has a physical balance on the car, very-very few are there.

“The transformation we did between 2023 to ’24 was that we took 14 kilos out of the chassis. 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 it is still overweight.

“So what happens when you challenge the system and the technology is you can get an output from it and the output from it is things get delayed. And weight gets added as one of the fixes 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.”

When I went back on the history of us as to how we upgrade, with the facilities we have, the process and structure we have, weight became a natural outlet for it. And as a result of that, we have been overweight for many-many years. As you change technologies – so ’22 was a very large year, and this year was a very large year – what we gave Alex is a car that is much better balanced, a much better package.

“If you now go back and look at your timing sheets [from the first six grands prix] and take four and a half tenths off [per lap], you have a realisation as to why Alex is frustrated, because I’ve muted him. I wanted to have the opportunity here to say this is what we did, and this is what we’re doing to fix it. What’s not of interest to me is what’s happened. It’s how we move forward from this point onwards.

“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. 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.

“A team, any team or group go speak to them, you can’t deal with that plus taking the weight. So damage bill, I just couldn’t believe what happened in 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 from here onwards we produce cars that are effectively up to where they need to be.”

“Williams for many years has had some great people working on our teams but it is incredibly expensive taking the weight out of the car and lot of what we have been doing…I did it last year when I joined here is taking weight out and its very inefficient in doing it. And that stops now and that’s one of the foundations moving forward,” summed up Vowles.

When asked to clarify, the Williams chief affirmed that the chassis is 14 kgs less but the car overall is heavier and he has revealed this information not to embarrass the people at Grove, but show the plight of a team who are doing all the hard work they can and what they are dealing with behind the scenes.

He also added on the development rate race in the midfield which is only adding to the pressure. “The chassis is 14 kilos less, the car is much heavier,” said Vowles. “It [the weight on minimum side] will be closer but not quite there. The truth behind is the development rate in the midfield at the moment is enormous, we have taken few kilos off since the beginning of the season, it is not the first step we have done it, it is just here it is a very large step fundamentally.

“The midfield is developing at a rate which really hard to keep up with, you can see how RB has moved forward, you can see how Haas has moved forward – that’s one floor each, Sauber as well has put a floor- the aero development rate is pretty strong at the moment. So, it depends a lot on what they have got coming and what we have got coming and that’s the story of the season I think.

“What I can tell you is that the car is not sitting still, they are moving forward and it will be quick. The frustration I have is if you go back to the timing sheets, this car would have scored points all the way through the beginning of the year. The main reason for this messaging is not to embarrass the factory, it is quite the opposite, this is…actually I am showing you what most others wouldn’t, just how difficult things are within Williams and how hard people try just by working hard and to deal with it, we have got to find better ways of doing it, through process and structure and infrastructure”

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