How Williams managed to pinch ‘exceptional’ recruit from troubled Alpine

Thomas Maher
Alpine's Pat Fry and Williams' James Vowles.

Alpine's Pat Fry and Williams' James Vowles.

Williams’ team boss James Vowles has explained how he successfully convinced Pat Fry to leave his role at Alpine to join his team…

On Friday, Williams confirmed the signing of a new CTO (chief technical officer) to lead their technical department, having successfully snaffled the experienced Pat Fry away from the Alpine team.

It was a dramatic day of signings and departures, particularly with Alpine, as the Enstone-based squad confirmed the departure of Fry alongside those of team boss Otmar Szafnauer and sporting director Alan Permane.

James Vowles details timeline of Pat Fry approach

Speaking to select media, including, on Friday, Vowles explained the process of hiring Fry and convincing him to jump ship had nothing to do with the timeline of events involving Szafnauer and Permane – instead hinting that Fry had been persuaded by other off-track events earlier in the season.

“[Alpine are] clearly in a lot of pain and trouble and [going] through a conversion thing,” he said.

“I have no control over what they do. All I can really say is that Pat’s not a part of that change that they’re going through. Pat’s decision was made many, many months ago.  I’d probably say, if you go and look at what was happening in the media with Alpine around that time, you might even be able to pinpoint when it was happening.”

Vowles then went into detail about the timeline of his initial overtures towards Fry, and why he quickly became his main target to lead the Williams technical department.

“The first time I spoke to Pat was actually back in January before I officially started with Williams,” he said.

“Just to make it clear – he was the one I’d highlighted that I really wanted to be within Williams, he’s exceptional at coming into organisations where you need someone to roll their sleeves up and probably get stuck into structure and systems.

“There are different types of CTOs available to you – there are ones that are very good at finding your last 10 milliseconds, and there are ones that are very good at putting structures and systems in place… he’s more the latter.

“He understandably had a journey with Alpine that he wanted to continue but, by April, he could see the vision as to why I had joined Williams and was very much in line and on board with that.”

Vowles confirmed that, while Fry is coming on board as CTO, his aim is still to hire a technical director to slot into the hierarchy below his new signing.

He also suggested further technical roles will be recruited for, perhaps for younger staff members to allow them to grow and prosper within the team structure – an opportunity he himself had been afforded during his tenure at Mercedes. He also suggested initial conversations had been held with possibilities, but there was nothing solid to report. recommends

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The strengths ‘statement signing’ Pat Fry brings to Williams

Having convinced the former McLaren and Ferrari man to join Williams, a role he’ll assume on the 1st of November later this year, Vowles detailed the strengths he believes the engineer can bring to the squad as he settles in.

“I’ve never worked with Pat, but I know him very well. I actually knew him back in the Manor time [in 2016], we had a link between ourselves [Mercedes] and Manor.

“What I was looking for was the following… I’m very much a believer in behaviours and characteristics. And by that I mean, you need to have empowerment, you need to know how to train up the next generation of individuals who know how to put the structure in place. It’s not about blame.

“It’s about fundamentally having a policy that allows failure, as long as you capture it correctly and talk about it, and Pat mirrors all of those – he’s not political in his nature, he just gets on with things. That’s what I was looking for.

“I was looking for someone as well… not everyone would fit Williams, it really is an organisation that is doing its best to convert and change from where it has been. But there’s a long journey in front of us at the moment. It’s not something I can do by myself.

“Someone like Pat would be perfect… what he’s been used to at both McLaren and Alpine were in a difficult state. He’s done a good job with that. And you do need someone who has knowledge and has the willingness, and energy, to want to put it back in as well. And he does.”

As for whether Fry’s signing can be viewed as a statement signing, an underlining of confidence from a respected member of the paddock into a team that’s on the rise, Vowles said both his own signing and that of Fry should be seen as the potential that is lying under the surface at Williams.

“When people saw that I left the comfort of Mercedes to go to Williams, and now people have seen Pat at a time where Alpine were in a strong place…” he said.

“That’s why I want it to be clear this wasn’t in the last few weeks – this was a long time ago, wanting to join Williams, people will now understand that Williams wants a culture of change.

“So it’s not specifically that… it’s more that, once you see two very senior people that have been in the sport for 20-plus years and winning races and we want to come here, others will now see why it’s worth that journey.”

Read More: Otmar Szafnauer sacking: A victim of McLaren and Aston Martin surge?