James Vowles predicts tracks Mercedes will be ‘mighty’ at in 2023

Sam Cooper
James Vowles, Williams team principal. Bahrain March 2023.

Williams team principal James Vowles stands on the grid ahead of the race. Bahrain March 2023.

Former Mercedes strategist James Vowles has predicted the tracks which he believes the Silver Arrows will be “mighty” at during the 2023 Formula 1 season.

The W14 looks far off being anywhere close to “mighty” at the moment but a man who up until very recently was in the Mercedes garage has predicted that will change at some point during this season.

Vowles, who swapped his chief strategist role at Mercedes to become team principal at Williams during the off season, was asked whether Red Bull’s current superiority was likely to last over the course of the whole campaign, something that George Russell predicted would happen.

The Williams boss though did not follow the same train of thought as Russell, commenting that both Ferrari and Mercedes will be strong at different points before highlighting which two tracks in particular will see a competitive Mercedes.

“Do I think Red Bull will dominate the first part of the season? No, I doubt it,” Vowles said during the team principal press conference ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

“I think you’ll see Ferrari will be a lot closer to them here [in Jeddah] and it will be at tracks like Silverstone, Barcelona where Mercedes will be mighty as a result of what I know of that package.

“On balance across the season do I think they’re the fastest? Yes, but they still have a wind tunnel deficit. It’s not as big as I think it necessarily should be to balance things out, but it’s still there.

“It will still mean across the season that you’ll see other people moving towards them. And with the rules carrying over to next year, you have to keep developing this class, so things will close up.”

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Having had experience inside a team that was used to relentless winning, Vowles also shed some light on how even the smallest changes during winter can “completely screw up the following year.”

“In the winter, you could make just one or two key decisions and you completely screw up the following year,” the 43-year-old said.

“If you look at dominance across eras, it’s across regulation change. The reason why is a) you can’t invest properly and b) instead of having a few decisions, you have too many decisions and you screw them up. Simple as that.

“The next bit is when you’re fast, you don’t want to change. If you get caught into that, I promise you, your rivals will be changing all the time. And what you did yesterday is not good enough tomorrow.

“As a result of that, you can stand still and be caught up very quickly. It is very difficult to stay at that level for as long as Mercedes did. If Red Bull are there or if they keep going, it’ll be an incredible achievement to do it.”