James Vowles, Williams F1 team boss, tempers expectations for 2024, focusing on realistic goals despite the team’s considerable improvements and strategic investments under the new leadership of Toto Wolff’s former aide.
“It is ‘not realistic’ for Williams F1 to target a major advance in the hierarchy in 2024,” insists team boss James Vowles.
So, does the former great British team, now owned by American investment firm Dorilton Capital, aim to leap forward again by surpassing Alpine in 2024?
“That’s not realistic,” says Vowles. “I know the real gap between the teams and I know our rate of development. And what we want to change is still too far away for us to make that step this year. I am convinced that our situation will improve, but I will do nothing that could jeopardize our long-term goal.”
“So yes, this is already a very different Williams team from what we saw at the end of 2022 and the start of the season. When I started, I didn’t set a goal for where we would finish in the World Championship. I wanted this team to be put back on its feet first.”
“I thought ninth place was realistic, eighth was a dream. We fought for seventh because Alex (Albon) did an incredible job. He defended himself in Montreal, Silverstone, and Monza against a whole host of drivers who were faster than him.”
“Then, we managed to improve our package so we could score points ourselves. Two points here, two there. Nonetheless, we have to stay realistic. The best teams score almost as many points in a race weekend as we do all year.”
It might be logical to assume that after being the strategy chief at Mercedes, Vowles is trying to create a Mercedes-type structure at Williams.
“That sounds strange,” he replies, “but I don’t want to blindly copy anything. In that case, I wouldn’t learn anything about the new team and I would leave its strengths untapped.”
“My experience with my former team is just a reference, but that won’t get you anywhere in Formula 1. You have to say ‘This is where I am, this is where I want to go’. Then, I have to find the mechanisms to get me there. With my experience, with the current strengths of the team.”
On the driver’s side, things are already going well. Williams can count on the impressive Alex Albon at the wheel.
“The Alex you see today is different from the Alex he was at Red Bull or the Alex at the beginning of last season.”
“He lacked self-confidence, but he has it now. He’s happy, he’s a leader, he sets the direction. I think if many other drivers had to drive a Williams tomorrow, they would probably struggle.”
“But the simplest is often the most difficult. You never know how good a driver is compared to another until you put them in the same car at the same time. Today, I know of Alex that he gets the maximum out of the car he has at any time. And every time you put pressure on him, he withstands the pressure. He can cope with a difficult car to drive. That can be an advantage for him. For me, Alex has the skills to become a world champion one day. I say this honestly.”
In the other car, meanwhile, is Logan Sargeant, a rookie in 2023, with Vowles admitting that he considered replacing the American for 2024.
“But since Suzuka, he hasn’t missed much compared to Alex. He has progressed race after race, compared to himself and also to Alex. He has reduced the error rate and he has done what we asked him to do. Sometimes, you have to give people a chance.”
Williams F1’s Realistic Goals for 2024, Vowles Says. Williams F1’s Realistic Goals for 2024, Vowles Says
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