James Vowles tells the truth about Mercedes and their budget breach

Mercedes dominated Formula 1 for most of the turbo-hybrid era, before Red Bull and Max Verstappen usurped them.

The ex-Mercedes chief strategist and current team principal of Williams Racing, James Vowles, has shed light on disparities concerning the cost cap.

The F1 cost cap was put in place to limit team spending on their cars throughout the season with the idea that it could help create a level playing field.

This, however, has not been the case since its introduction in 2021.

James Vowles worked at Mercedes for over 10 years, and the Williams boss has a unique insight into proceedings.

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“There’s the operational budget cap, which is the number that most people know,” Vowles told RaceFans.

“That’s the $145m – which is not really $145m, it’s larger than that because there’s various corrections applied to it – that’s the number everyone thinks of the cost cap.

“That bit, I’m completely in support of. It’s a good thing. It’s why these businesses are now becoming sustainable. It’s why Formula 1’s growing the way it is.

“What wasn’t a good decision is we have a capital expenditure side of the cost cap. When I had my Mercedes hat on, unfortunately, I knew what this would do which is why we were so keen on signing it up and restricting this.

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“At Mercedes, we had about $300 million worth of equipment that Williams does not have. That’s locked in and no one else would ever catch that up. And even if they could, imagine how long it takes you to spend $300 million, get the money together, put it in place.

“That’s why the big teams signed up to the cost cap very quickly. And, for small teams, what it meant is that we’re fighting really with one arm behind our back by comparison.”

Once a key figure at Mercedes, one that played a vital role in the success of the Silver Arrows during their glory days between 2014-2021, Vowles now holds his allegiance to Williams and may be raising further awareness of the failures of the cost cap to evoke change.

In recent years, Red Bull have been punished for breaches in the cost cap and the team were found guilty of a minor overspend back in 2021 when the budget was set at $145m.

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Unsurprisingly, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was adamant such a breach had no effect on performance but his pleas failed to prevent a $7m fine.

Regardless of budget, Williams Racing have so far relied upon the expertise of Alexander Albon to guide the team from the bottom of the table.

Williams currently sit above AlphaTauri on 7 points and Albon has scored all 7 himself, knocking on the top 10 of the drivers’ championship.