F1 team boss reveals shock at factory sleepover to prepare crucial upgrade

Jamie Woodhouse
Cars moving into place on the F1 grid.

The 2023 drivers line up on the grid

James Vowles was shocked when his Williams upgrade pep talk was interpreted by staff as needing to sleep at the factory to complete it.

A stalwart of Team Brackley throughout various iterations, Vowles departed the head of strategy role at Mercedes to take on his first team principal role with Williams for F1 2023.

And he has certainly made a positive start, Williams looking like a team on the up again with a P7 finish in the Constructors’ Championship secured, the team showing their racing passion and commitment to Vowles in an example which took him aback.

Williams ready to sleep at factory to complete Canada upgrade

Williams rolled out an upgrade package for their FW45 at the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix, the boost instantly showing as Alex Albon raced to a P7 finish, his joint-best result of the F1 2023 campaign alongside the Italian GP.

And when speaking to Motorsportweek.com, Vowles offered an insight into the monumental effort to get that package ready to be put on the car in Montreal, so deep was the commitment that the Williams personnel were prepared to sleep at the factory in Grove to get it done.

“I went down and I did a talk to some of the key people involved in production and build,” he said.

“The talk was, ‘We’ll make this work, I’ll be here with you. Let’s get this done, but it’s incredibly hard.’

“What I didn’t realise is they took that as we’re going to have to sleep in the factory! They were prepared to do that, completely comfortable with giving up their home life to be in the factory 24/7.

“That doesn’t exist, certainly in my old place, to that level. That’s Williams all over, and the passion and the racing are very much embedded in the bottom of it.”

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Vowles had a crucial call to make on the Williams driver front for F1 2024, with Albon having scored 27 of their 28 points in F1 2023, compared to just one for Logan Sargeant in a difficult rookie campaign.

Vowles opted to retain faith though in the Williams Driver Academy graduate, confirming the same line-up for F1 2024 and ensuring that next season’s grid will be unchanged from how it looked at the end of F1 2023.

Explaining the decision to keep Sargeant, Vowles told Sky F1: “There was optionality, there was other choices. But we’ve invested in him because I believe in him.

“He is fiercely fast when he gets it right and all together. He needs the environment now where he can grow and do more of that next year and that’s why he deserves more of an opportunity.”

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