Home Formula 1 Williams boss shocked to learn 20,000 car parts are managed using Excel

Formula 1 Williams boss shocked to learn 20,000 car parts are managed using Excel

The billion-dollar industry that is Formula 1 often exhibits some of the latest developments in tech, but one aspect of the Williams team is behind the times.

Williams Racing welcomed a new team principal in January 2023 in the form of James Vowles, formerly the motorsport strategy director at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team under Toto Wolff. Vowles is now heading into his second season as team principal in 2024 and has been vocal about making changes at the Formula 1 team, which finished seventh out of ten teams in the Constructors Championship in 2023.

Building a Formula 1 car one Excel sheet at a time

One area in particular was “a joke” according to Vowles, speaking to The Race in a recent interview. The team was managing more than 20,000 car parts using an Excel spreadsheet, a system that Vowles described as “impossible to navigate and impossible to update”.

“When you start tracking now hundreds of thousands of components through your organization moving around, an Excel spreadsheet is useless,” Vowles continued. “Once you start putting that level of complexity in which is where modern Formula 1 is, the Excel spreadsheet falls over, and humans fall over. And that’s exactly where we are.

“There is more structure and system in our processes now. But they are nowhere near good enough. Nowhere near.”

Vowles relayed how he saw Williams engineers physically looking around the factory for certain parts, rather than being able to quickly search for the data and location of necessary pieces of kit. Coming from the efficiency and regulated world of Mercedes, it’s easy to see why organization was one of the first areas that Vowles vowed to update.

The Excel spreadsheet has since been transferred to a digital system but it reportedly caused a lot of upheaval for the team in 2023, happening at the same time as the car’s “technology base” was also updated. Vowles hopes that the new systems in place for 2024 will set the team up for smarter working.

If you want to try out your own skills at managing a Formula 1 team, read all about F1 Manager 2024 and when it’s on the way.

Featured image: Williams Racing

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Rachael Davies
Tech Journalist

Rachael Davies has spent six years reporting on tech and entertainment, writing for publications like the Evening Standard, Huffington Post, Dazed, and more. From niche topics like the latest gaming mods to consumer-faced guides on the latest tech, she puts her MA in Convergent Journalism to work, following avenues guided by a variety of interests. As well as writing, she also has experience in editing as the UK Editor of The Mary Sue , as well as speaking on the important of SEO in journalism at the Student Press Association National Conference. You can find her full portfolio over on…

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