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Formula 1 Canadian GP

Vowles: F1 cost cap changes on infrastructure investment coming in July

Williams boss James Vowles reckons Formula 1 cost cap changes to allow teams with weaker core infrastructure to invest and match levels established at leading squads are coming in July.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, the rest of the field at the start

F1’s new financial rules have been hailed as a success at reining in spend by bigger teams since they were introduced in 2021, but problems have since emerged – including that teams are strictly limited on capital expenditure.

This means some teams therefore find it difficult to upgrade equipment not given exemptions in the cost cap – such as building whole new factories or establishing new wind tunnels – and the matter was raised at the F1 Commission meeting back in February.

Vowles, just a short time into his role as Williams team principal back then, was particularly vocal in pressing for possible changes, which gathered support from other squads, the FIA and the F1 organisation.

In an exclusive interview with Autosport at the Spanish Grand Prix, Vowles said “there’s [been] good progress” on the move to adapt the cost cap to allow teams to invest in other infrastructure other than major building projects.

“I think Formula 1 and the FIA completely understand it,” he added. “Other teams actually understand it as well. Perhaps some less than others, as you can imagine.

“But a financial review is coming up in the next week or two and then I think probably by July that will be finished and done with.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing, Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team, in the Team Principals Press Conference

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing, Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team, in the Team Principals Press Conference

Photo by: FIA Pool

When asked how he was finding working F1’s political machinations as a team principal to suit his new squad, Vowles explained that he was “fairly well trained in that before”.

He continued: “If you think about it, I was known as a strategist at the track, but actually truthfully for many of the last years of my time there [at Mercedes] I wasn’t doing that.

“I was more acting as ‘how do we do motorsport strategy generally across GP3, Formula E, where do we go forward with things?’

“And then within the paddock, [asking] ‘how do we get the rules defined in the way that we want them to be?’ – including the cost cap for that matter – with my previous hat on.

“So that part of it I’ve been doing for many years. I think that’s accepted within other TPs that that’s one of my strengths.”

In recent weeks, Vowles has been open in outlining the full challenge he faces in turning around Williams’ fortunes, even admitting some of his team’s systems are “20 years out of date” and behind what he found when joining Mercedes when it was then called BAR back in 2001.

Such public frankness about a squad’s inadequacies is rare in an F1 team boss, but Vowles says this is actually a key part in his method for helping Williams rebuild.

“The [results of decisions] that you see, by the time it makes its way to you, has had months of work behind the scenes,” he explained.

“So, if I give you examples of it – we’re in a situation here where Williams hasn’t had the funding for the last 15 years.

“The first step of it is to make that public, make sure people understand. At the cost of making Williams look poor. [Say] ‘here’s where we are, here’s why we’re here’.

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing

Photo by: Williams

“But, clearly the point behind it is that I want other teams to align behind me to say ‘actually, we will give you an opportunity to fight against the greats, we will give you an opportunity to invest’.

“In that specific forum, you use the nature of the fact that people actually do like Williams and want us to come back.

“It’s one of your strengths that allows you to invest in the areas that you need to invest in.

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“Just a simple example, but it’s a very powerful example of how you get other people to align with your direction, even if they’re a competitor to you.

“It shouldn’t benefit them by doing so.”

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