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Embarrassing Williams spare chassis gaffe makes mockery of F1

james vowles williams f1

The fact that the Williams F1 Team can only field one car at the 2024 Australian Grand Prix magnifies the embarrassing gaffe made by their Team Principal James Vowles and also makes a mockery of Formula 1‘s claim to be the pinnacle of motorsport.

That should mean ten F1 teams, the very best in the world, well-equipped for every circumstance that a Grand Prix weekend can throw at them. That’s what the sport at the highest level is meant to be about. Unable to run one car is something out of the seventies when teams were run on shoestring budgets.

The one-car Williams team in Melbourne triggered questions from everywhere, with Formula 1 technical director Pay Symonds revealing that Vowles admitted “we had to choose between the spare chassis and some upgrades” – deciding the latter route to their peril.

In this era, money abounds in F1, many organisations cove a spot on the grid  and F1 teams are obliged to field two ‘equal’ cars for their drivers, if not ‘equal’ having two on the grid is not negotiable. This won’t happen for Williams as Alex Albon has annexed Logan Sargeant’s car after the Thai driver wrote off his chassis when he pranged heavily during FP1.

When the team realised the Williams was only good for the bin, and realised they did not have another chassis. Sargeant was rightly sacrificed for his far better teammate Albon. The American who is very lucky to be on the F1 grid after a woeful rookie season last year, shouldn’t complain as he crashed enough cars for Karma to come calling, as she did in Melbourne.

Nevertheless, that a F1 driver has to sit out a Grand Prix because the parts bin is empty is simply unforgivable and a massive ball drop by Vowles, who talks so much that every weakness and flaw he found in the once Greatest F1 Team he has happily revealed to all and sundry.

Symonds: I think the real story here is the solitary chassis

Großer Preis von Australien: Logan Sargeant muss nach Crash von Alex Albon im Williams in Melbourne zusehen - Eurosport

Amid the far too many photo ops and soundbites for a rookie TP, Vowles appears to have neglected the basic requirement F1 requires of his team: field two cars.

In this case, having insisted on keeping crash-prone Sargeant’s dubious services for 2024, it seems neglectful that the former Mercedes man turned team boss did not think a second chassis necessary.

Symonds had little sympathy for Williams when he told F1TV: “I think the real story here is the solitary chassis.

“I’ve never, in my career gone to the first race without having a spare chassis and all the 40-odd years of working in teams, some of whom hardly had two cents to run rub together. I’m very, very surprised that they don’t have that.

“When I was at Williams for several years the production side of things did struggle, but you know, that was seven years ago. I really thought they would have sorted things out by now. They’ve got the money to do it.

“So I think that to me, that’s the real story. Why wasn’t there a spare chassis?  Given that, they did what they had to do. You know, because this is a team sport. You get the best result you can for the team. And Alex is really making the most of that car. It’s not a bad car now.”

“We’ve got Japan coming up, which is another circuit where you can damage a chassis. Now they have to get that one back to the UK. They’ve got to repair it because the third chassis is still some weeks away. So they’ve just got to do the best they can at the moment,” ventured Symonds.

Symonds: James said they had to choose between the spare chassis and some upgrades

The F1 budget cap was introduced to specifically reduce the gap between F1’s Haves and the Have-Nots. With this in place how did this happen?

Symonds continued: “The budget cap is the same for everyone. Williams, my understanding and talking to people within the teams, they’re not short of money. So there’s a planning thing I think James said they had to choose between the spare chassis and some upgrades.

“Well, that’s a strange thing to have to do. You shouldn’t have to do that. If you want to be a front-running team, you’ve got to get your production tight, and just as important as your performance side of things,” added Symonds.

The FIA, who should perhaps in future write into the rules that a spare chassis is required by every team before racing commences, should slam Williams and their Team principal Vowles a hefty fine for bringing F1 in disrepute.

Williams have become an embarrassment for our sport. Vowles has already struck out twice (to coin a baseball term) during his short reign as TP:

  1. With so much talent on the fringes of F1, Sargeant did not deserve a second season
  2. No spare chassis for Australian GP;
  3. Third strike! Is he out?

Yet the powers that be (FOM and their ten-team elite club) fight tooth and nail to keep Williams in the paddock when they have no place in F1 in their current state. Their demise is heartbreaking for those who recall Sir Frank, Patrick Head and their ‘Boys’ dominating F1.

Meanwhile, proper racing teams and organisations with winning intent and pedigree (aka Andretti Global) cannot find a way into Formula 1, which increasingly cannot be billed as the pinnacle of motorsport.

Big Question: What is going on at Williams?