Vowles explains the steering wheel glitch that derailed Logan Sargeant’s F1 Bahrain GP

Photo credit: Williams Racing
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Williams experienced a myriad of technical difficulties during their round one outing in Bahrain—something team boss James Vowles believes belied the true potential of the FW46.

Among these was a steering wheel anomaly that sent Logan Sargeant sliding into the run-off area after a massive lockup merely ten laps into the race. 

Sargeant successfully rejoined the race after his off and even managed to get back to the pits, where his car was fitted with a new steering wheel, but was unable to regain the positions he’d lost as a result of the issue, and ultimately finished a disappointing 20th. 

Speaking to the media after the race, the American recounted his misadventure.

“Yeah, we’ve had some electronic issues the last couple of days, qualifying and then today, so just need to understand the core issue. We thought we fixed it, but obviously it came back. 

“It didn’t happen again once we changed the steering wheel, so maybe it’s something there, but just need to understand the core cause for it and try to not let it happen again going forward.”

Williams was the last team to make the switch to a new gen steering wheel with an integrated display, debuting the component ahead of the 2024 season. It appears that the team is having some teething problems, as Alex Albon was also heard complaining about his steering wheel later on in the race.

“It was just doing things on its own without my asking,” Sargeant continued.

“So yeah, I dont completely understand it from my side, but that’s whats going on. I figured it was over, but got back to the pit, changed the steering wheel, didnt have the same issue again.

“But obviously the race was unfortunately already over at that point. 

“Yeah, just honestly I’m not sure. I don’t want to say anything until I know exactly what happened.

“But yeah, I’m sure the engineers are already looking into it. I don’t want to speak before I know exactly what it is.”

Team principal James Vowles also weighed in afterwards, confirming that the steering wheel issue affected the brake bias, causing Sargeant to violently lock up at turn four. 

“With Logan we suffered an issue on the steering wheel so drivers are frequently adjusting what’s happening with the brake bias and how much the brake migrates forwards and backwards,” Vowles explained.

“There’s a rotary to be able to do that and in that circumstance what happened is all of a sudden the brake bias went very, very forward—you saw that with the front lock he had.”

He added that it’s imperative for the team to investigate and rectify the problem.

“The car was otherwise fine but clearly we could not have uncommanded moving of that brake bias and we need to understand that immediately. That sort of fault is critical both for racing and also safety. 

“What it did mean though is his race was over, without a safety car he wasn’t coming back and everything was more about understanding where the performance of the car was than the performance of the tyres were. 

“With that brake issue, Logan fundamentally put himself on the back foot but from then onwards he was able to use the car, but had the same [overheating] PU problem that Alex had.”

Vowles believes a better result was on the cards for Williams, had it not been for the technical difficulties.

“In terms of the race itself, I’m confident we had a car, despite the problems, that could be fighting up for that 11th place. 

“I don’t think we had a car that could finish in the points today, but we absolutely had a package that should have been right there ahead of most of our direct rivals and we didn’t. 

“We didn’t achieve what we wanted, we didn’t get everything right today at all.”