James Vowles on what he expects to find when taking over at Williams

Michelle Foster
James Vowles in thought on the grid. Hungary, July 2022.

Former Mercedes strategy chief James Vowles in thought on the grid. Hungary, July 2022.

New Williams team boss James Vowles isn’t downplaying the challenge that awaits him, admitting sweeping changes, including the “culture”, need to be made.

But, he believes that with Dorilton Capital’s backing, he can make it happen.

Following on from Formula 1’s driver silly season, the team bosses engaged in one of their own that, as its final play, saw Williams announce Vowles as Jost Capito’s replacement.

Capito’s exit was one of the more unexpected, the German paying the price for an underwhelming first season under Formula 1’s all-new technical regulations, one that saw the Grove squad slump to P10.

Vowles will take up the reins in February with the former Mercedes strategy director conceding a lot needs to “change” at Williams for them to return to former glory.

He, however, believes that with Dorilton Capital’s support, it is possible.

“It’s hard to answer what’s wrong,” he said as per Sky Sports, “simply because I haven’t set foot inside and my contact has been fairly limited.

“What will definitely be wrong is, when you’re hurting and you’ve been punished and pushed down as an organisation because you’re suffering, that doesn’t get any better year on year unless you get a change to what’s going on, a change to the culture, to the methods and systems.

“I suspect a lot of it was that… if we go back a few years, we didn’t have the strength that is Dorilton.

“Dorilton really want and will invest the correct amount to make this a performing team, and I don’t think it’s fair to say that was the case a few years ago, and the impact of them will take a while to properly kick in.”

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He added: “If you asked me what are the front facing and most iconic brands of the sport, Williams is what comes to mind.

“It’s filled with incredibly talented people who were just hurting a little bit from the last few years. But it has great potential.”

Is James Vowles the right man for job?

Bottom of the log in four of the last five seasons and without a single race win since 2012, Vowles faces a mammoth task returning Williams to the sharp end of the grid.

If one is honest, it will take monumental effort just getting them back into the midfield tussle.

Last year’s FW44 was woefully off the pace, forcing the team to change mindsets midway through the season as they swapped out their bodywork for something more in Red Bull’s style.

But even that didn’t help, the team scoring eight points overall.

Vowles, however, reckons his past experience in Brackley, where BAR become Honda, Brawn GP and finally Mercedes, has given him some insight into what needs to happen at Williams.

“I’m fortunate enough to have known failure on levels that many of you unfortunately have publicly seen,” he said.

“Even prior to Mercedes, there were times where we were languishing in a very poor position: we didn’t score a point for 12 races.

“The real gain that you get out of this is that you have to instil a culture into this that allows everyone to realise that you have to be empowered. You have to grow, you have to move forward as a unit together, and it has to be one collaborative motion.

“I strongly suspect that we’re just in a situation where that collaboration isn’t quite at the level it could be or should be, just simply because it’s been a few years of pain that cemented it.”

His former Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has backed him to get the job done.

“He’s bigger than a chief strategist,” the Austrian said. “He will grow into this team principal’s role, and this is what he deserves.

“You cannot stop someone that’s reaching out for the stars. You just need to embrace that.”