Williams announce Mercedes’ chief strategist James Vowles as new team principal

Jamie Woodhouse
James Vowles in thought on the grid. Hungary, July 2022.

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

James Vowles will become a team principal in Formula 1 for the first time as he makes the move from Mercedes to Williams.

The Grove outfit had been on the hunt for a new team principal after Jost Capito announced his surprise exit at the end of 2022, with technical director FX Demaison also following him out of the door.

But now Williams have their new man as Vowles puts pen to paper on a deal that will see him take over the reins, bringing an end to his long-standing association with the Mercedes team which stretches back way further to past eras of that Brackley squad.

Having started his F1 career as an engineer at the British American Racing and Honda Racing F1 teams, Vowles played a crucial role in Brawn GP’s sensational underdog story as they won the 2009 Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles in their only season on the grid, remaining with the team since it was bought by Mercedes.

Vowles will assume his team principal role at Williams on February 20, with pre-season testing taking place in Bahrain from February 20-23, ahead of the season-opener at the same venue on the following weekend.

“I cannot wait to start with Williams Racing,” said Vowles. “It’s an honour to join a team with such an incredibly rich heritage.

“The team is an icon of our sport, one I greatly respect, and I am very much looking forward to the challenge.

“Williams Racing have placed their faith and trust in me, and I will do the same in return. The team has tremendous potential, and our journey together starts in a matter of weeks.

“Mercedes have been hugely supportive on my journey, and we part on excellent terms after over 20 years of working in Brackley.”

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Wolff, while naturally sad to be preparing to bid Vowles farewell, had only positive words to say about his colleague, already one of the established senior figures at Mercedes when Wolff became team boss back in 2013.

Wolff has no doubts that Vowles has what it takes to be successful as a Formula 1 team principal.

“James has been a highly valued member of our team in his role as motorsport strategy director, playing an integral part in our success in recent years,” said Wolff.

“Having worked with him since I first joined the team in 2013, I know how diligent, capable and talented he is and have taken great satisfaction from watching James develop and grow over the past decade.

“Since stepping back from the pit wall mid-season last year, he has continued to build the capability of our strategy team at Brackley, and we have a fantastic group of talented strategists who will continue their superb work in the years to come.

“While we are naturally sad to be saying goodbye to such a capable member of the team, I have no doubts whatsoever that he has all the necessary skills to become a fantastic team principal in Formula One.

“We wish him every success and are delighted that he will take this next step in his career with Williams, a strong technical partner of ours and one that has a place close to my own heart.”

Vowles faces arguably the biggest challenge available as a team boss in Formula 1 right now, as he looks to pick the iconic Williams team up after a disappointing 2022 campaign, where they finished comfortably adrift at the bottom of the standings with only eight points. That was the fourth time in five years that Williams have propped up the order.