Helmut Marko: Mood at Mercedes ‘tense’ following James Vowles’ move to Williams

Thomas Maher
Helmut Marko in the Red Bull garage. Melbourne April 2022.

Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko patrols the team's garage. Australia April 2022.

Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has no fears of Williams becoming a Mercedes ‘B-team’ after James Vowles’ switch to become the new Williams team boss.

Long-time Mercedes head of strategy James Vowles was recently announced as the new Williams team principal, replacing Jost Capito after both he and technical director F.X. Demaison opted to leave the Grove-based squad.

Vowles, who had worked at Brackley ever since their days as the British American Racing Squad before their iterations as Honda and Brawn before being bought by Mercedes, has been a key figurehead in Mercedes’ successes over the past decade.

With Williams being a Mercedes engine customer, as well as Toto Wolff being a former shareholder in Williams, Vowles’ move to become the boss at Grove could be seen as a strengthening of the bonds between the two outfits.

Helmut Marko: No concerns about Williams becoming a Mercedes ‘B-team’

But, according to Red Bull’s Helmut Marko, the situation is actually the complete opposite, with the Austrian expressing his belief that Vowles’ move has been made entirely independently by the British engineer.

Speaking to Germany’s Sport1, Marko said he has no fears about Williams being manoeuvred into a position of being a Mercedes ‘B-team’.

“No, I have completely different information,” he said.

“Vowles went of his own accord and, so it is said, even takes good technicians with him. My sources tell me that’s why the mood at Mercedes is tense.”

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Asked whether Vowles’ departure could actually be seen as a weakening of the Mercedes team, Marko couldn’t speculate.

“We’ll see,” he said.

“But I still believe that Mercedes will be our biggest challenger when it comes to defending our title.”

Full steam ahead for Helmut Marko after winter break

Marko, who turns 80 in April, has shown no signs of slowing down in his role at Red Bull, with the Austrian’s schedule back to normality after a short winter break.

Detailing his activities over the break since the last race in November, Marko said he visited Honda’s headquarters in Japan with both Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen.

“After the last race in Abu Dhabi, I was in Japan with Honda for a long time, together with the two drivers,” he said.

“After that, it got a little quieter. Not only did I have peaceful holidays, but I continued to work continuously. For example, I had a lengthy conversation with Oliver Mintzlaff, who is now responsible for our Formula 1 project (following the death of Dietrich Mateschitz).”