F1 Team Pieces Car Builds Together Using 20,000-Part Excel Spreadsheet

F1 Team Pieces Car Builds Together Using 20,000-Part Excel Spreadsheet

The ever-struggling Williams Racing organized the builds of its Formula 1 cars using an Excel spreadsheet until an intensive transition in the lead-up to the 2024 season. Team principal James Vowles revealed this archaic organizational system in an interview with The Race. The anecdote is emblematic of how far Williams has fallen behind Grand Prix racing’s elite, and how creating a racing car takes more than just having knowledgeable people design it.

Vowles became team principal at Williams in 2023 after helping the Mercedes F1 team to an unprecedented eight consecutive constructors’ championships. Since his arrival, he hasn’t held his tongue about how outdated operations were at the storied team. Vowles stated last year that the facilities were two decades out of date. Coincidentally, 2003 was the last season when Williams won multiple races. Regarding spreadsheets, Vowles told the Race:

“The Excel list was a joke. Impossible to navigate and impossible to update.”

“Take a front wing. A front wing is about 400 different bits. And when you say I would like one front wing, what you need to kick off is the metallic bits and the carbon bits that make up that single front wing. You need to go into the system, and they need to be ordered. Is a front wing more important than a front wishbone in that circumstance? When do they go through, when is the inspection?

“When you start tracking now hundreds of 1000s of components through your organization moving around, an Excel spreadsheet is useless. You need to know where each one of those independent components are, how long it will take before it’s complete, how long it will take before it goes to inspection. If there’s been any problems with inspections, whether it has to go back again.”

“And 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.”

The spreadsheet listed around all 20,000 parts needed to construct a car, and Williams had only adapted components from the previous season’s car for the new machine. It’s a monumental effort to build an F1 car, even a slow one. Building a race-winning machine takes the concerted effort of thousands of people collaborating as efficiently as possible. Every moment spent looking for clarification is time wasted not developing the car. A spreadsheet just isn’t going to cut it at that scale.

During the 1990s, Williams were like the Chicago Bulls in pro basketball, an unstoppable force of nature collecting every trophy in the path. Today, Williams are still the Bulls, a team far from the championship picture trying to rebuild into a contender. Additions like Vowles will help turn Williams around, but the team must undergo a seismic transformation to get there.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.