F1 team boss tipped to make big move after incredible first impression

Oliver Harden
The start of the Canadian GP from above. Montreal June 2023.

Max Verstappen leads the field at the start of the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix.

Sky F1 commentator David Croft has backed James Vowles to emerge as one of the top team principals in F1 after a stunning first season with Williams in 2023.

Williams enjoyed their strongest season in years in 2023, claiming their best result in the Constructors’ Championship since 2017 by claiming seventh place.

The team’s improvement came after Vowles was announced as only the third team principal in Williams’ entire history, with the former Mercedes strategist having a transformational impact.

James Vowles tipped to join top F1 team

Croft has been impressed by Vowles’ willingness to embrace every aspect of the job, recalling a conversation he had with the Williams boss at April’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku.

And he believes Vowles has all the attributes to emerge as one of the sport’s great leaders in the years to come, tipping him for a move to one of the leading teams within four years.

Appearing on the Sky F1 podcast, Croft said: “He admits to working 16-hour days doing this.

“We had a great chat in Baku as he was leaving the track and I was walking back to the hotel. It was quite late at night because things in Baku don’t finish until about 8pm.

“I said: ‘You OK?’

“And he went: ‘I’m exhausted, but I’m loving it. I knew this was a big job, but I didn’t realise how big this job was going to be – but I’m absolutely loving it.’

“That was in Baku. We’ve talked a lot since and he’s still really enjoying it. He works brilliantly with the sponsors, he engages with the media, explains things not just about Williams but about what’s going on on track.

“He engages with fans. I love him on social media because he actually gets engages directly with the fans. People are inspired by him.

“I think he will go on to be one of the top team principals at a top team in three or four years’ time. I really do.

“He understands marketing. He is an engineer by trade. He understands strategy. He understands drivers. And he’s beginning to understand the politics.

“James Vowles could be the big team boss of the future. I really hope he will be because he deserves it, because he works tirelessly for success.”

Croft believes Vowles quickly implemented a different way of doing things at Williams and was impressed by the signing of former McLaren, Ferrari and Alpine tech chief Pat Fry in July.

However, he reckons Vowles could have been more forceful politically and away from the racetrack having campaigned for more money to spend on upgrades to Williams’ Grove factory.

He explained: “He’s my team boss of the year without a doubt.

“If you look at the lead time he had before he took up the role, you’re talking a matter of three months maximum. That is not a lot of time to put into operation any sort of plan where you hit the ground running and you get instant results.

“He didn’t take up the reins til the start of February officially, so had no real influence whatsoever on the car at the start.

“But it became quickly apparent to me watching during testing that he was introducing simple tweaks and changes to the way Williams went racing that would make them better right from the start.

“Things that would have been run of the mill behind the scenes at Mercedes for a race team, he was now bringing in to Williams saying: ‘Look, I know you do it this way. Try doing it this way.’

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“Behind the scenes, he was also putting into preparation and operation long-term planning for the future, identifying where he needed key members of technical staff.

“Pat Fry joining was not a surprise to me whatsoever. I think Pat had become a bit disillusioned at Alpine and was a man that would be very much on James’s wish list.

“He was looking at the factory and what needs changing at the factory, what Capex spend Williams need.

“Halfway through the season, he went and asked for the rules on Capex to be relaxed a bit because they wanted to spend money. They had money to spend.

“He wanted capital expenditure of what was allowed under cost cap rules: new buildings. He wanted an allowance for more money and he didn’t get the full amount. Basically, he got a certain amount, but not the full amount.

“He didn’t quite get through everything he wanted and maybe there’s a couple of marks lost in not playing the the overall political strategic game to its fullest extent within the auspices of other team principals and the FIA.”

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