Williams team principal James Vowles has slammed the proposed Andretti Cadillac entry into Formula 1, warning that it will cause huge losses to his team’s investors and that the money pool cannot afford to be diluted by an 11th team on the grid.
The Grove-based team were the lowest cash prize earners in 2022, and Vowles has previously called for changes to the rules to allow the team to invest in infrastructure projects which are restricted by modern regulations.
Already operating with limited resources, thanks to outdated simulation equipment and small winnings from F1, Williams could see another hit to their financial income if Andretti are approved by the sport after they already won a seal of approval from the FIA.
“My thoughts are very clear. Williams is against the addition of an 11th team and very strongly against,” Vowles said to media at the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix. “I’ll explained the reasons behind that and why.
“My responsibility is to 900 employees within my company. If you go look at Companies House, you can go and look it up for Williams. We’ve submitted it now you’ll see that we’re lossy. We’re very lossy.
“In fact, compare it from 2021 to 2022. You’ll see the losses are in the tens of millions more compared to 2023, which you won’t see, but I’ll guarantee you it’s multiples above that.
“The reason why is we’re investing in the sport to become better. We believe in wherever sport is going, and we believe in the direction of travel of the sport.
“In order to do that, and the reason why is we actually have I think, a sustainable entity for once teams are actually working more and more together. We have close racing as a result of things.”
Vowles gives damning forecast about F1 finances
As prize money gets split across the (currently) 10 teams, an 11th team will take money away from all of the other teams. For the bigger budget outfits like Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari that isn’t much of a problem, but it impacts Williams.
The British team recorded a £46m ($56m) increase of revenue in 2022, up from the previous year.
Financial statements from Companies House in the UK recorded that the team generated £142.8m ($175m) that year, which is £32.5m ($40m) more than cost-cap for 2023.
Williams finished 10th, and last, of all the teams in 2022, but currently sit seventh in 2023 and look set to boost their income via prize money as they enjoy a respective nine-point, 11-point and 16-point lead over their trailing rivals, who Vowles says are also struggling to budget.
“It should be known that this isn’t just us that are not financially stable,” the Williams boss added. “I’d say it’s probably half the grid, and I think the addition of an 11th team is a sensible thing but only at the point where the 10th team on the grid is financially stable.
“I’m fortunate to have owners that really believe in what we’re doing and to invest in what we’re doing, but we need to take care of our sport to make sure we look after that.
“Everyone says we’re in a good place and we are in some regards, but now those facts down the line that actually this is tens of millions who in fact, hundreds of millions, you’ll see shortly being invested to make the sport better.
“It becomes therefore clear why we’re very careful about diluting what we’ve already gotten because it’s just more losses on the table
“We’ve been clear from the beginning. We’re more than happy to bring in new entities, but the pie has to grow as a result of it not shrink, and so far it’s just shrinking.
“For clarity on that that’s not against either Andretti or General Motors (GM), quite the opposite. I welcome GM open arms and Williams welcomes GM with open arms and I hope to forge a relationship with them should things work out.”
How does F1 prize money work?
Of the $913m the F1 made in 2022, 50 percent went to teams and 50 percent went to shareholders and stakeholders.
The core prize money is thought to amount to 47.5 percent of the competitors’ share, amounting to approximately $216.8m.
It is then divided in half once again, with the 10 teams earning more based on a sliding scale based on results whilst also receiving a flat-rate from the remaining 50 percent.
Thus if Andretti joins, Williams not only loses part of their flat-rate but their prize winnings become threatened with another competitor that could score better results.