Williams facing ‘key question’ over future manufacturer support

Could Williams take on manufacturer support from 2026 to revitalise the struggling the F1 team?

Could Williams take on manufacturer support from 2026 to revitalise the struggling the F1 team?

Williams team principal James Vowles has not ruled out future manufacturer support for the struggling F1 organisation.

Vowles, however, is prepared to bide his time to see what impact he can make in the short term rather than forego the fierce independence on which Williams has traditionally prided itself.

Mercedes’ former head of strategy has stepped into a minefield in taking on the Williams role, in particular, given its lack of technical leadership at present.

The last few years have been blighted by under-performance, resulting in Williams finishing last in the constructors’ championship in four of the last five seasons.

Given the seemingly crucial nature of attracting an OEM in order to survive and prosper in F1 these days – as Sauber has done with Audi, for example – Vowles knows it is a subject that will need to be addressed at some stage.

Asked about manufacturer support from 2026 when new power unit regulations kick in, arguing the merits of doing so, he replied: “This is probably the key question.

“Every time you take some benefits. For example, there are transferable components you could take from OEMs, then you’ll gain, you’ll make a step up because simply they’re doing a level of quality perhaps you’re not at yet.

“But you’ll start to lose the knowledge internally as to how to do things to that level, and it’s a balance.

“They’ll give you a short step but it will probably hurt you longer term unless everyone’s brought to the same level playing field.

“To win championships, if you look at who’s won them, typically it’s an OEM, and you need to be manufacturer backed in order to do it, you need to have everyone behind it.

“That’s the difficult pathway we have to fight along the way.

“For now, we have a realistic target. We know that, step one, with what we have right now we have the ability to move forward from where we are.

“That’s goal number one, so let’s review in the future, see what it looks like and make the first steps from there.”

Williams has ‘bigger fish to fry’

From last season, Williams took on board a gearbox from Mercedes and other related hydraulic components, parts which had always previously been built in-house.

Once Vowles has resolved the technical department issues behind the scenes, whether Williams will revert back to building its own parts again is another piece of the bigger-picture puzzle that needs assessing.

Sauber, for instance, has switched to building such a component for this year as the knowledge is required ahead of its alignment with Audi.

“They’re forced into their circumstances as a result of that significant change,” assessed Vowles.

“As I said, at some point, you have to be in charge of your own destiny, and you’re simply not when you have a reliance on someone else providing you with parts.

“A simple example of it is, as good as the components are, you don’t know what your aero direction will be until very late.

“It’s normally dominated by the decision of circumstance, however, we have bigger fish to fry at the moment.”

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