Vowles predicts no F1 team will meet minimum weight in 2026

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Williams team boss James Vowles believes that achieving the targeted minimal weight limit will be a major challenge for all Formula 1 teams in 2026 in the wake of the sport’s regulation overhaul.

This new era will focus on a sustainable future for F1, with key changes impacting both engines and car design.

The most significant change lies in the power unit itself. A near 50/50 power split is anticipated between the internal combustion engine and the hybrid system, a shift that comes with the removal of the turbo-mounted MGU-H component in the hybrid unit.

While the increased reliance on hybrid technology will inherently add weight to F1’s next-generation powertrain, the chassis itself – shorter and narrower – is expected to shed some pounds.

Additionally, aerodynamicists will have the freedom to experiment with active aero elements, aiming to improve on-track racing.

The combined efforts of a lighter chassis and active aero are predicted to contribute to a weight saving of 40-50kg. However, Vowles anticipates difficulties in achieving the ultimate minimum weight limit set by the regulations.

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It’s a concern that echoes the struggles faced by many teams at the start of the 2022 season, where weight became a crucial performance factor.

"I think by 2026 [Williams will] be in a sensible place [with car weight]," Vowles told Motorsport.com.

"But even then, '26 has very interesting regulations at the moment that reward weight in a way that no other championship has, because it's such a low number.

“I don't believe anyone can hit that. That's on the side. But even beyond there, we need to make sure that we have a car that you can continually add downforce to in the wind tunnel at the right rate, so it's a competitive level. That's got to be what you want."

Williams has made good strides under Vowles’ leadership. However, the former Mercedes strategist remains focused on the bigger picture.

The Briton insists significant improvement across the entire team is absolutely necessary before the Grove-based outfit can even entertain the idea of challenging for championships.

Beyond dealing with the weight issue currently impacting Williams’ FW46, transforming – and especially modernizing – the team’s internal processes is a major priority.

This involves implementing more efficient workflows and communication channels, ultimately leading to a smoother car development process.

Vowles also highlights the importance of investing in cutting-edge materials for car construction, which will lead to lighter, stronger, and more aerodynamically efficient designs, potentially giving Williams a competitive edge.

"There is not one area of this company that I am happy we are at the level required so we can fight for a championship. Not one," he stressed.

"That's a bold statement, but a truthful statement of it as well. Weight is the one that everyone out here will understand now why we're saying we're on the right path, but we've got a lot of things we need to address and fix.

"I've said from the beginning, we're open about it. We're going to be here and take you on the journey of what we're doing and why it's so difficult, and why Formula 1 is exceptional.

"But we will get there. Weight is just the one that's slapping us on the face today, but that's not the main issue."

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