F1 Australian Grand Prix Notebook: No Quick Fix to Williams Car Shortage

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F1 Notes: No Quick Fix to Williams Car ShortageWILLIAM WEST - Getty Images

Williams’ spare car woes will continue and Ferrari’s Jeddah hero’s Formula 2 woes continue. Autoweek provides its paddock notebook from the third round of the 2024 Formula 1 season in Melbourne.

Williams Will Be a Car Short in Japan, Too

Williams will again be without a spare chassis at the next round of the season in Japan.

Formula 1 teams are permitted to have a third chassis available at each Grand Prix, which can be built up into an operational car if one of the two race chassis are written off in practice or qualifying.

But Williams has not been able to take a third chassis to a grand prix so far in 2024.

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The lack of a third car on site meant Logan Sargeant sat out the F1 Australian Grand Prix.Anadolu - Getty Images

Alex Albon’s sizeable crash during opening practice left Williams with only one chassis, which he took over from Logan Sargeant for the remainder of the weekend, and the damaged car has been sent back to its factory in the UK to be repaired.


Personnel originally working on the third chassis, as well as on updated components, will now be tasked with repairing the second chassis in order to get it ready for the next race. That also means that Albon and Sargeant will have to walk a tightrope at the challenging high-speed Suzuka track, where the barriers are perilously close, and where Sargeant was forced to switch to the spare chassis last year after a crash in qualifying.

Team principal James Vowles recognized the tricky mental challenge facing Albon and Sargeant but believes any change of mindset or instruction would have a negative influence.

“I’m pretty sure they fully understand that there’s no risks that we can be taking at this stage,” he said. “So it’s an interesting psychological trick, but if you talk to a driver and say ‘don’t take any risks,’ they’re racing drivers, it’s what I pay them to do—I pay them to be pushing to the absolute limit of where they can be, within reason, and I’m asking them to do something that’s entirely unnatural to them, and in certain aspects probably worse.”

Vowles, who joined in February 2023, is overseeing widespread transformation at Williams as the squad strives to change out-of-date processes while it awaits new equipment, with Vowles having been shocked at the age of some Williams’ machinery when he joined. Several rival teams were surprised that Williams was without a spare car but for Vowles it once more again highlighted the progress Williams needs to make.

“There’s a finite amount of resource and as we were going through an inefficient structure and making transformation at the same time, we started to cause problems,” he said. “In this particular case, the third chassis started to get delayed and delayed and delayed, and I think one of the things were transparent about is we were very late with these cars. Very, very late. We pushed everything to the absolute limit. The fallout of that is we didn’t have a spare chassis. Now even then it was intended to be coming here at round three, but it got delayed and delayed again as other items got pushed back as a result.”

Vowles expressed sympathy for Sargeant, and acknowledged that the decision will have damaged the young American’s confidence. Vowles also lauded the manner in which Sargeant acted as a team player.

Sargeant was present for the remainder of the Melbourne weekend, assisting Albon where possible, though unfortunately for Williams Albon finished 11th and came up just short of points.

Vowles is optimistic that Williams will have the third chassis ready for the fifth round of the season in China.

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The Alpine Formula 1 team is one of four teams yet to score a point this season.Qian Jun/MB Media - Getty Images

When It Rains, It Pours

It never rains, but it pours, and yet despite the weekend-long sunshine and dry weather, Alpine turned up on Friday to discover a slightly soggy hospitality unit. Unfortunately for the team its hospitality suite happened to be affected by a plumbing issue, turning the green grass outside the building into a brown mulch, with the area being cordoned off while repairs were undertaken.

Meanwhile, Alpine endured another difficult Grand prix as Esteban Ocon had to make an unscheduled pit stop after a visor tear-off from another car became lodged in a rear brake duct, dropping him to 16th, while Pierre Gasly was 13th.

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Record crowds enjoyed the F1 action in Melbourne.BSR Agency - Getty Images

A Record Crowd