Williams make huge step with team ‘unlocked’ under James Vowles’ leadership

Oliver Harden
James Vowles, Williams

Williams team principal James Vowles on the F1 grid at the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Williams head of vehicle performance Dave Robson has praised James Vowles’ impact, claiming the team are no longer living “hand to mouth” since his arrival from Mercedes.

Vowles has won many admirers since being appointed team principal a year ago, leading Williams to seventh place in the Constructors’ standings – the team’s best result in six years – in his first season as a team boss in 2023.

The former Mercedes strategist has placed a huge emphasis on a long-term plan for the team, bringing an end to the days of short-term decision making.

Williams ‘unlocked’ under James Vowles

Robson, who joined Williams in 2015 after more than a decade with McLaren, has noticed a transformation in the team’s approach since Vowles’ arrival, claiming the team boss has “unlocked” elements of the Grove-based outfit.

He told Motorsport.com: “There are all sorts of things that James has unlocked.

“I think that probably one of the biggest things is, for the first time in a long time, we’re not just focused on today and tomorrow, so you can afford to have a much more long-term or medium-term view on things.

“That’s completely different to how it’s been probably since 2014/15. It’s not hand to mouth anymore, so that changes an awful lot.”

Vowles is only the third team principal in Williams’ long history, following in the footsteps of founder Sir Frank Williams and Jost Capito, who spent two years in the role following Dorilton Capital’s takeover in 2020.

Robson revealed that Williams’ way of working has been transformed under Vowles, making for a contrast with the approach of his predecessor.

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He explained: “That whole sort of philosophy about how we do the R&D – what the real goals are – becomes quite different. On top of that, he’s been able to come in and see exactly where the weaknesses are.

“Having that sort of experience and authority come in means that there’s not that much discussion, the investment needs to be made, the investors are prepared to make that investment and now we’ve got a clear sense of confidence as to where we should be.

“Whereas before, even if the money was available, we had to do all the work to understand why it was the right place to invest in. So that makes a big difference.

“His whole way of leading is quite different. I think it’s probably taken a bit of time for everyone to come to terms with it, but now everyone understands how it works.

“It’s really quite refreshing. It is genuinely about being open and honest and everyone understanding that mistakes are fine as long as we learn from them, which again is different to how it sometimes was.

“There’s not like a list of five things that severely have made an impact. It’s just the whole way he operates the team is different and better.”

Ahead of the 2023 season finale in Abu Dhabi, Williams driver Alex Albon told media including PlanetF1.com how the team will “see the rewards next year” after stopping development of the 2023 car “a long time ago.”

Robson believes Vowles’ philosophy will be evident in the new FW46 car, with Williams still potentially two years away from translating the changes Vowles has made to the track.

He added: “As we got into the development of next year’s car, the FW46, we can see that new attitude kind of rippling its way throughout the company.

“At the track, we see way more James on a day-to-day basis than the factory does.

“We probably adapted to it reasonably quickly, but I think now over the last few months you can really see it has taken effect everywhere.

“It’s still probably another year or two from fully materialising into performance, but you can really feel the sense of change now.”

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