Vowles: Crucial F1 CapEx talks “went round in circles”

Williams boss James Vowles has conceded that Friday’s crucial talks on allowing Formula 1 teams to make extra investment in new infrastructure "went round in circles".

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing, on the pit wall

With its factory lagging behind that of rivals Williams has been the main voice in a push to allow teams extra CapEx [capital expenditure] headroom in order to bring their facilities up to the standard of pacesetters Red Bull and Mercedes.

However, others including Alpine, McLaren, Alfa and AlphaTauri are also keen to have an extra opportunity to invest to a greater or lesser extent.

Friday’s F1 Commission in Spa discussed two levels of extra expenditure allowance for all teams as well as an alternative option that would see team projects such as a new simulator or gearbox dyno assessed on a case-by-case basis.

But after a series of votes, no conclusion was reached and instead, the matter was referred to further discussion by the financial advisory committee, and the deadline for a vote was extended to the end of October.

“If I wind back, 20 February, which is a few days after I started here, was the first day I put on the table that we as Williams need help,” said Vowles.

“We cannot compete at the front with the facilities we have at the factory. That remains the case today. That hasn't changed. 

"And in five months or so, 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.

Alex Albon, Williams FW45

Alex Albon, Williams FW45

Photo by: Williams

“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. And there was no way of doing it. 

"There's no way of just letting Williams gain facilities, especially in a circumstance where we're currently sitting seventh in the championship.

“You know that other teams will be hurt by the fact that we could put millions in and some are in different positions. Some don't have the money to spend, some don't want to spend the money, and some are fearful of change. Aligning that in one room in the space of two hours simply is not possible.”

Vowles noted that it was inevitable that the current top teams do not want to see change, and he urged them to see the bigger picture.

“On every vote, it wasn't a surprise, particularly how it voted when we spoke about who needs to catch up. Basically on one side of the table, this is a coincidence, by the way - we don't line up this way - were the teams at the back end of the grid and on the other side of the table the teams at the front end of the grid.

“And it'll be no surprise that the back of the grid near enough all unanimously had the hands up for most of these votes. The ones at the front and the grid did not. There were some exceptions to that.

“This is about for the greater good of the sport. And I really do believe this. I appreciate I have more to gain than others. You need it to be that on any given Sunday, you don't know who is going to particularly win.

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing on the grid

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing on the grid

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

“And certainly the dominance doesn't exist the way it does at the moment. I think that's good for the sport. To do that, everyone needs to have facilities that are not even on par, but the ability to produce performance and move forward. And that's not the case as it is today.”

Vowles confirmed that the case-by-case option didn’t get much traction in the meeting, compared to a spending increase across the board.

“So the blanket increase was the one that had the most support, as you would imagine because all teams across the grid benefit from it,” he said.

“It's not the right solution for the sport, but even so, as Williams. I would have preferred a blanket increase over nothing, which is where we are today.

“On a case by case, as you would imagine, the hands started to drop. My hand was actually aching from the amount of time I held it in the air at that period of time, and it dropped quite considerably by the time we were on a case by case.”

Regarding the next steps, he said: “It's hard to know what's going to change over the next two months, which is the next point we'll get together and talk about all of this.

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“Because everyone's fears of where they lie in the championship and how it affects them short term and how powerful Williams could become as a result of it will still be there.

“What I'm hoping out of all of it is it's undoubtedly agreed in that room that Williams, amongst all the peers, is the one with the least amount of facilities and that needs rectifying. And we'll have another go at fixing that and seeing if we get other people's mindsets to modify.”

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