James Vowles, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023 pre-season test

Vowles finds Williams a “stark contrast” to Mercedes after taking team principal role

2023 F1 season

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The scale of operations at Williams is a “stark contrast” to Mercedes, its new team principal James Vowles has admitted.

Vowles was announced as the replacement for former Williams team principal Jost Capito last month, but took charge of the team just three days ago. He joined the team after spending two decades at the team currently known as Mercedes, which previously raced as Brawn GP, Honda and BAR.

During his time at Mercedes the team scored an unprecedented eight consecutive constructors championships. Meanwhile Williams, which uses the same power units, has finished last in the points standings in four of the last five seasons.

Nonetheless Vowles is impressed by the quality of staff he found at his new team. “There’s a number of great people there on-site,” he told media including RaceFans today.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023 pre-season test
Gallery: Pre-season testing day two in pictures
“They’ve obviously had a difficult, probably, last 15 years or so due to just circumstance, lack of investment and otherwise. But you can still tell that the same level of passion that is shared irrespective of the grid position you’re in is there and available to you. And they’ll work whatever it takes really to move forwards.”

While Vowles has taken over from Capito, the team is yet to confirm a replacement for its former technical director Francois-Xavier Demaison, who left at the same time. Vowles said sorting out the team’s organisation is his “primary” task.

“We don’t have the structure in place technically, obviously, as a result of the changes that were made,” he said. “Number one is, let’s put in place a proper set of structures in terms of technical director, et cetera, head of aero. That’s number one, because clearly an organisation needs those to move forward.”

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Dave Worner, who joined Williams from Red Bull three years ago, has been appointed as interim technical director. Vowles said he is “not going to rush to a decision” of who to put in the role permanently.

Dave Worner is Williams’ interim technical director
“There’s a strong organisation in place and it’s acting without a technical director,” he said. “As we speak today, there’s a car on-track, it’s built, they did an incredible job over the winter to achieve that.

“What’s clear is this is not about short-term, putting someone in place, this is about the long-term and making sure we have the right person in place.”

“The key is making sure we find the person that fits the organisation for the long term,” he stressed.

He admitted he is still “understanding where Williams is” compared to his former team. “I have the benefit really of being in an organisation where if you acquired something, you asked for it, you were provided it. We had everything you could possibly imagine.

“It’s a stark contrast to where I am now. Especially in an environment in a cost cap where it’s difficult to request or even pay for what you need.”

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Having previously run Mercedes’ strategy department, Vowles is tackling many aspects of the team principal role for the first time. “There’s a tremendous amount more disconnection, I would say, from the car and a lot more connection to sponsorships, media, whatever it may be,” he explained.

“That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s an enjoyable element of the role as well. But certainly before, you still had quite a quite a strong connection with the car. You have to remove yourself of it. Simply, your time isn’t enough to spread around all activities.”

Illustrating the difference in scale between his current and former teams, while Mercedes had to make cost savings and even redundancies to adhere to the budget cap, Williams’ expenditure was beneath it when it was introduced in 2021.

“We will be on the budget cap and we were there or thereabouts, effectively, last year,” said Vowles. “I think it’s probably fair to say, I don’t know the financial accounting of other teams, but near enough everyone will be there now.”

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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2 comments on “Vowles finds Williams a “stark contrast” to Mercedes after taking team principal role”

  1. He makes it sound like he was thrown in there (almost against his better judgement) to sort things out so they could become a worthwhile Mercedes B Team.

  2. Don’t get me wrong, I really do hope that he kicks the team out of the cellar and really makes them successful.
    What is concerning is that he is sounding more like Paddy Lowe than Vince Lombardi.

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