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Formula 1 Azerbaijan GP

Vowles: Time at Mercedes didn’t give “full picture” of team principal role

New Williams Formula 1 boss James Vowles says his championship-winning tenure leading Mercedes’ motorsport strategy has not given him the “full picture” of life as a team principal.

James Vowles, Motorsport Strategy Director, Mercedes AMG F1, and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, 1st position, on the podium

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Until his 2023 appointment at the helm of Williams, Vowles served two decades at Brackley, rising to the ranks of Mercedes chief strategist and latterly its motorsport strategy director.

Beyond influencing in-race strategy, Vowles co-managed the Three-Pointed Star’s junior driver roster in his former position and steered the manufacturer’s presence in other categories.

He was considered a contender to one day replace Toto Wolff at the top of the Mercedes F1 squad.

But Vowles says he must learn on the job at Williams, with his initial months in charge allowing him to realise he is not the finished article. But he reckons he can match other team bosses.

He told Sky: “You migrate from knowing one thing for many, many years - remembering that it was 20-odd years that I was at the previous place.

“I had the fortune of doing strategy but then moving on to many of the other tasks that Toto and myself worked on, including strategy not just for the team but other organisations within Mercedes.

“It gave me a formation to this but clearly not the full picture of everything I’m going to expect here.

“However, everything is exciting simply because you’re using skills that you’ve built previously and having to really explore the limits of what you’re aware of.

“I have a lot of learning to do. I’m against my nine other peers who have been doing this for many, many years and are very experienced at what they’re doing. But I think I’ll hold my own.”

James Vowles, Williams team principal

James Vowles, Williams team principal

Photo by: Williams

Asked to compare Mercedes and Williams, Vowles said he recognised a common hunger for success but that his new premises could not escape years of underinvestment.

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He said: “They are two different organisations held within a pitlane just 400 metres apart.

“Mercedes is an organisation that has been well funded for many years and has all the toys that you may wish. Williams has gone through a number of hardships over the last 15 years.

“If you look at it, it hasn’t had the investment required to keep up with the levels of others.

“It’s done incredibly well with the resources it has. There’s still a tremendous number of good people there that want success, that want performance, that want to move forward.

“It’s now really what I’d call in a transformational period, it’s in a journey.

“Everyone buys into that journey. We have good investment; we have good foresight for where we need to go.

“You still have people who get out of bed in the morning who just want to go run racing cars to the best of their abilities. What we need now is just to pull the team together, give good direction and make sure we all move forwards in the right way.”

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