Why James Vowles’ arrival at Williams may help team’s climb up the grid

Thomas Maher
Alex Albon ahead of Williams colleague Logan Sargeant, Williams. Bahrain, March 2023.

Alex Albon ahead of his Williams team-mate Logan Sargeant. Bahrain, March 2023.

Williams’ Dave Robson has revealed how constant changes of leadership haven’t helped the team to move forward in recent years.

Williams were left without a team boss and technical director once again over the winter break, following the departure of Jost Capito and F.X. Demaison, respectively, after two years with the Grove-based squad.

The team have since secured the services of Mercedes’ former head of strategy James Vowles to take the helm at Williams, with the British engineer now in his first few weeks in charge and adjusting to life as a team administrator rather than being directly involved in the attack of a Grand Prix.

With no technical director in place following Demaison’s departure, Vowles has identified the structure and hierarchy of Williams’ technical departments as a key priority to be sorted during 2023 but has warned that he won’t rush into a decision purely to fill the gaps.

Dave Robson: Constant changes haven’t made life easy

Dave Robson, Williams’ head of vehicle performance, has therefore served in a defacto technical director-type role on various occasions in recent years, having also had to step in to fill the gap following the resignation of Paddy Lowe in mid-2019.

Having gone through cycles of various technical leaders, as well as team bosses and owners after the Williams family sold the team to Dorilton in 2020, Robson explained that the lack of stability hasn’t helped the team much as they’ve struggled to climb up from the back of the grid.

“It’s not easy, to be honest,” he told media, including PlanetF1.com, in Bahrain.

“Because you don’t have that stability with a proper medium to long-term plan in place. You end up with people having to take on the responsibility of where there should be other technical leaders in place.

“The ‘deputies’ end up having to take on that added responsibility and that added workload, and it doesn’t help.

PlanetF1.com recommends

Is it already too late for Ferrari to mount an F1 title challenge this season?
‘Super proud’ Alex Albon says Williams progress second only to Aston Martin
US driver Logan Sargeant the surprise pick as F1 rookies make fully-fledged debuts

“There are some positives, I suppose because it exposes people like me to do things that I wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to. So that’s kind of useful for me and maybe that will hopefully help Williams as we go forwards but it’s clearly not been good for the team in the short-term.”

Robson’s own responsibilities have had to bend as necessary to the demands of any given period, as he explained how he and other senior staff have had to mop up areas of neglect.

“It’s ebbed and flowed, I guess,” he said.

“Because since Paddy left, we’ve had periods where we haven’t had a technical director. So I’ve taken on some of that responsibility. When F.X. was here, he obviously took quite a lot of that back but did things a bit differently from the way Pat Symonds or Paddy did so my job kind of ebbs and flows to some extent. Myself, Dave Warner, and Adam Carter when he was here, are happy to go around and pick up the bits that need doing.”

James Vowles’ arrival means it ‘finally feels really good’

With Robson forced into what is essentially a fire-fighting role as a result of the constant chopping and changing, he admitted the medium to long-term picture has suffered but, given the now stable financial footing Williams have as a result of Dorilton’s investment, he’s hopeful the arrival of Vowles is finally giving the team a firm base from which to work from.

“I think there’s some truth to that,” he said, when asked about how the long-term suffers with such an environment.

“That, coupled with, until the last few years with Dorilton coming in, not having the resources to be able to think that long-term either – that combination is difficult.

“It becomes inefficient because you have the changes and the lack of consistency. So you end up spending resources on things you never quite finished or see-through, because people come and go.

“So I think the combination of stability, leadership, and having financial backing from Dorilton, it finally feels really good.”