James Vowles the new Williams team boss
James Vowles is the successor to Jost Capito and will start work for the new season on 20 February. Williams have announced Mercedes strategy chief James Vowles as their new F1 team principal.
The Williams Formula 1 team has recruited Mercedes strategy chief James Vowles as its new team principal.
James Vowles’s appointment as Williams team principal is proof of a fundamental change of direction for the team given what it suggests about its structure.
Williams went into 2023 with vacancies in both its main team management roles after the abrupt departure of team principal Jost Capito and technical chief Francois-Xavier Demaison last month.
The first of those has now been filled with the appointment of 43-year-old Vowles, who will leave his Mercedes strategy director position to lead Williams.
“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.”
Vowles has been part of what’s now Mercedes since it was the BAR team, staying on through its Honda period and single season as Brawn GP in 2009 and graduating through the ranks from being a race engineer to leading its race strategies through its dominant seasons.
Matthew Savage, chairman of Williams owner Dorilton, called Vowles “one of the most highly respected talents in Formula 1”, someone who “will bring performance” and who “has been a key part of some of the most impressive feats in the sport over the past 15 years”.
He added that the appointment “reinforces our dedication to ensuring we have energetic, experienced, and strong leadership as we move into the next phase of transforming Williams Racing”.
Vowles said Mercedes – Williams’s long-time engine supplier – had “been hugely supportive on my journey, and we part on excellent terms after over 20 years of working in Brackley”.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said he had “no doubts whatsoever” that Vowles “has all the necessary skills to become a fantastic team principal in Formula 1” and that he had left the strategy department in good shape.
“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,” said Wolff.
Williams dropped back to last in the constructors’ championship in 2022 after its encouraging ’21 season.
This is the second time in its recent history that a major Mercedes figure has moved across to a key Williams leadership role, following Paddy Lowe’s unsuccessful stint as Williams technical chief in 2017-19.
This is the magic that Williams needs Vowles to bring to the team. He’s lived and breathed the success of Mercedes, has seen what teams that aren’t doing well look like and has a good understanding of Wolff’s way of doing things. And Wolff is a passionate enthusiast for managerial strategic thinking so you can be certain that as well as seeing how Wolff operates, there will have been endless conversations about this philosophy over the years.
Williams has many other problems to solve, including the long-standing struggles on the technical – and in particular aerodynamic – side and Vowles will also need to contribute to those. One clear idea he can bring from Mercedes is how to foster greater inter-departmental understanding given how often politics can undermine a team’s efforts.
It’s a big ask for Vowles and clearly one he wants and feels ready for after so long not just as head of strategy at Mercedes, but also part of the inner sanctum.
What Williams wants from Vowles is clear. The two questions now are whether he is up to the task and, perhaps more crucially, whether the existing problems of the team are too well-entrenched to be fixed by just one change at the top.
James Vowles Williams boss James Vowles Williams boss
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