Formula One

Vowles ‘fortunate enough to have known failure’

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James Vowles knows he faces a big challenge as he prepares to take over as Williams team principal, after years embedded in the super-successful Mercedes F1 operation.

But Vowles says he’s no stranger to being part of a struggling squad, and that this will help inform his decisions as he bids to get Williams back to form over the coming seasons.

The 43-year-old British engineer has spent 21 years at Brackley and been a key figure at the team, culminating in the role of chief strategist from 2010 to 2022.

Prior to that, Vowles started in F1 as an engineer at British American Racing and Honda F1, and was race strategist for Brawn GP when it won the 2009 championship, before it was subsequently bought up by Mercedes as a works team.

“I am fortunate enough to have known failure on levels that unfortunately many of you have publicly seen,” Vowles told the Formula1.com website and selected media after his new role was announced.

“Even prior to Mercedes, there were times that we were languishing in a very poor position. We didn’t score a point for twelve races,” he pointed out.

<div>Vowles 'fortunate enough to have known failure'</div>

©Williams

“I am one change, but clearly one individual won’t make it,” Vowles continued. “What is required is a re-strengthening of the technical team, but also allowing those internally that are incredibly good to shine and prosper.

“I suspect the environment that they’ve had around isn’t one that would be have been conducive to that for a period of time,” he said.

“You have to instil a culture that allows everyone to realise that you have to be empowered, you have to grow, you have to move forward as a unit together, and it has to be one collaborative motion.

“I strongly suspect that they’ve put themselves in a situation where that collaboration isn’t quite as good as it could be or should be, just simply because it has been quite a few years of pain that has cemented it.

“When you are hurting – when you have been punished and you’ve been pushed down as an organisation – because you are suffering, that doesn’t get better year on year, unless you get a change to what’s going on.

“A change to the culture, a change to the methods, and systems. I suspect a lot of it was that,” he mused. “[But] it’s hard to answer what’s wrong simply because as I speak to you all here, I haven’t set foot inside.”

Williams Racing FW44 - 2022 Car Launch, Tuesday 15th February 2022, Grove, UK

Founded as a family-owned team by Sir Frank Williams, the squad was sold to US equity firm Dorilton Capital in 2020, which has inevitably led to a lot of change at Grove.

“Dorilton really want and will invest the correct amount to make this a prominent team,” Vowles said. “I don’t think it’s fair to say that was the case just a few years ago. The impact of them will take a while to properly kick in.”

But one thing that Vowles does rule out is the idea of Williams becoming a Mercedes B-team.

“Williams is an entirely independent organisation,” he said. “One thing that my success is subject and dependent on is my doing a good job there, and that has to be independent of Mercedes.

“It doesn’t mean that Mercedes and ourselves won’t have collaboration in some form or another – there was collaboration before I joined – but I have to do what is best for Williams from here onwards.

“There is no mini-Mercedes or B-team or any of that notion. This is about me standing on my own two legs and measuring success with an organisation around me.”

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