Williams is evaluating their contract with Mercedes with a view to changing engine supplier in 2026, with new team boss James Vowles admitting they cannot rely on others if they are to challenge for world titles.
Although Williams went to great lengths to make it clear that this was not a Mercedes B team, they have forged closer ties with the former world champions in recent years.
While they initially only used the Mercedes power unit, this deal starting in 2014, last season it was extended to include Mercedes gearbox and hydraulics.
The deal was signed under former boss Jost Capito with new team boss Vowles putting it on his list of things to consider for a possible change by 2026.
“Obviously we are happy with the relationship that has been in place for many years,” he said according to Autosport. “Mercedes has produced really, fundamentally, the best mid-range power unit in the last 15 years.
“Where we are now, certainly with Mercedes and other OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] is that we examine as we must.
“We have to make sure that we look at the market and make decisions on that shortly, on where we are in terms of the relationship.
“It has to be this year, where all the teams will progress. I think you’ll be hard pressed to see teams deviate from their current pattern much beyond this year.
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Williams potentially has six options for 2026 as Honda have put their name on the entry list, although they have yet to confirm if they will be on the grid permanently, while Audi and Ford, the latter teaming up at Red Bull, will also be Suppliers.
They will join Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault.
“At some point you have to be in charge of your own destiny,” Vowles said, “and you just aren’t when you’re relying on someone else to supply you with parts.
“As good as the components are, you don’t know what your aero direction will be until very late. This is normally dominated by the decision of the manufacturer’s circumstance.
But having extended their deal to include other Mercedes parts, not just the engine, the former Mercedes man acknowledges that if they swap engine partners they will most likely have to bring those parts in-house.
“That’s probably the key question,” Vowles continued. “Any time you take advantages for example there are other transferable components that you could take from other OEMs you will win you will step forward because simply they make a level of quality that you are can -be not yet.
“But you will start to lose the internal knowledge of how to do things at those levels. It’s a balance. This will give you a short term step, but it will likely hurt you in the longer term.
“To win championships you look at who won it – usually it’s an OEM, and you have to be supported by the manufacturer to do that, you have to have everyone behind you. And that’s the hard way. that we have to fight along the way.
A fight he admits will take time as the team first have to start advancing from year to year after which they can target the midfield forward.
But to take on the top three, he says Williams might need a little help from Formula 1.
“Getting to the top three is incredibly difficult,” he said. “They have resources beyond your dreams. They have an experience beyond your dreams, they have the best people on the grid.
“All these additional costs will be borne by teams who are perhaps fourth at the back. And I think a realistic step for this organization is first and foremost to make sure that every year we’re making slight progress. That there must be a number one dream.
“Dream number two is that we have to set a reasonable period of time in the future, and those are years, where we start to come in sixth, fifth, fourth.
“From there, the sport will probably have to have some level of political change to allow teams to make the top three. And this is the future.