Williams’ new team boss James Vowles has one pressing matter to tackle as he settles into his role with the Grove-based outfit.
After spending two decades at Brackley, most recently as Mercedes’ head of strategy en route to eight consecutive Constructors’ Championships between 2014 and 2021, Vowles has become Williams’ new team boss following the departure of Jost Capito.
While he took over the role six weeks ago, Vowles’ first appearance before the world’s media took place during the second day of pre-season testing in Bahrain where he spoke about the challenges facing him at Williams.
Capito’s departure came in tandem with the departure of technical director F.X. Demaison, who joined the team at the start of 2021, to oversee the beginning of the ground-effect regulations.
James Vowles keen to hire new technical director
It’s in the technical roles that Vowles believes Williams need to bolster their staffing, and he singled this out as his most pressing concern.
“I think the primary thing is this – We don’t have the structure in place technically, obviously, as a result of the changes that were made,” Vowles told media, including PlanetF1.com, in Bahrain.
“Number one is let’s put in place a proper set of structures, in terms of a technical director and a head of aero – that’s number one, because clearly an organisation needs those to move forward.”
But Vowles stressed that he’s not going to rush the decision just to have the positions filled.
“There’s a strong organisation in place and it’s acting without a TD as we speak – there’s a car on track, it’s built – who did an incredible job over the winter to achieve that,” he said.
“What’s clear is this is not about short-term putting someone in place, this is about long-term and making sure we have the right person in place.
“We’re not going to rush to a decision. The key is making sure we find the person that fits the organisation for the long term.”
James Vowles acknowledges the economic realities of leaving Mercedes
Having moved from one of the biggest teams in the sport, to a team that fell to the back of the grid before minor improvements in recent years, Vowles said resources are also a juggling act.
“It’s just understanding where Williams is,” he said.
“I had the benefit really of being in an organisation where, if you required something, you asked for it, you were provided with it.
“We had everything you could possibly imagine and it’s a stark contrast to where I am now, especially in an environment in the cost cap where it’s difficult to request, or even pay for what you need.”
Vowles’ previous role meant he was an integral part of the crew involved in the attack of a Grand Prix, but his move into team leadership means that he’s having to learn to enjoy the differences between the jobs.
“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 said.
“That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s an enjoyable element of the role as well. But certainly, before, you have quite a strong connection to the car. You have to remove yourself. Quite simply, your time isn’t enough to spread around all the activities.”
But, having spent a few weeks acclimatising himself to life at Williams, Vowles said he feels the same hunger amongst the staff as he did from his previous team.
“They’ve obviously had a difficult last 15 years or so,” he said, “but you can still tell there’s the same level of passion, regardless of the grid position you’re in, is there available to you and they’ll work whatever it takes really to move forwards.”