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Formula 1 Belgian GP

“Bandwagon” F1 teams prompted collapse of Williams capex push, says Wolff

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has suggested the push to help Williams get more freedom to spend on factory improvements collapsed because Formula 1 rivals jumped on a “bandwagon” to help themselves. 

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Williams team boss James Vowles has been seeking greater capital expenditure freedom for his squad, after discovering that its facilities are well down compared to many rivals.

While F1’s financial rules allow some spending on capex improvements, Williams feels the $36 million allowed over a four-year period is not enough to get where it wants to be. 

The matter was discussed at last week’s F1 Commission meeting, where Vowles hoped that a deal could be reached to help the smaller squads make gains. 

But in the end, a lack of agreement over what could be done, allied to some outfits seeing greater capex freedom for themselves, meant the discussions stalled. The matter is now set for further debate at F1’s Financial Advisory Committee. 

Vowles expressed some frustration after the meeting that nothing had been agreed, even though he understood that teams all have to look after their own interests. 

“It's unfortunate and it's disappointing, frankly, that we're in a situation where again, that meeting, I would argue, went round in circles if nothing else,” he said. 

"And to a certain extent, it will do, because everyone in that room wants to make sure that they're not losing out relative to everyone else.” 

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing on the grid

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing on the grid

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

But despite the matter hitting a roadblock right now, Wolff is hopeful that a solution can be found to help Williams – as he thinks it not right that some squads are trying to capitalise on the situation. 

“Why the Capex discussion came up is that a team, Williams, said their infrastructure is subpar and they wouldn't be able to catch up with trivial things like machine equipment, and up to the technical things like simulators.,” he said. “That was the starting point of all discussions.  

“Then, as a consequence, some teams jumped on that bandwagon to say, but actually, we would like to have a little bit more capex. And that number went up from $50 million to $60 million, $70 million, $90 million, and suddenly, it was like free reign and why don't we change the Capex levels? But there is no reason to do that. I think there is one team we need to treat differently than all the others.” 

While one solution looked at was to allow improvements on a case-by-case basis, Wolff said that even that failed to get support because others saw opportunities to gain. 

He added: “We came up with a list. Some of the big teams said we don't want a list, and if Williams get stuff, we want to have stuff. And that was simply shut down. 

“We need stability of regulations, on financial relations. And you need to be able to have a business plan that is valid and not a free rein every two years where we change the goalposts on capex. 

“So that's why this was the end of the capex discussion, but maybe we will find a solution for Williams.”

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