Williams Racing has appointed former Mercedes head of strategy James Vowles as its new Team Principal.
He replaces the outgoing Jost Capito who was booted by the team in December after a lacklustre 2022 F1 season amid reports of widespread internal doubts over whether the German’s philosophy was taking the team in the right direction or whether he was actually holding it back.
43 year old Englishman Vowles began his F1 career as an engineer at BAR before, a couple of years later, assuming responsibility for Brawn’s race strategy in their title winning year.
He would later become race-engineer and strategist for Mercedes AMG F1, where he’d be instrumental in over 100 Grand Prix wins and nine F1 world championships.
Despite having worked for BAR, Honda, Brawn and Mercedes, they were all different iterations of the same team and so his appointment at Williams is the first time in his distinguished F1 career that he’s moved on from the team that began its life as Tyrrell in England in the 1960s.
It has been long assumed that Vowles was interested in taking over from Toto Wolff as Team Principal of the Mercedes F1 Team when the Austrian steps aside, but with no indication that he’s planning on doing that any time soon, it would seem like Vowles has decided to cut his teeth in the Team Principal role elsewhere – perhaps following the George Russell method of arriving at the top job at Mercedes.
How quickly he will be able to influence the fortunes of the Williams team remains to be seen. The car for 2023 will be all but built, and so, if it’s a duffer it will take to the track in February as a duffer and may remain so for the rest of the year. If it’s a world beater then Vowles won’t be able to take any of the credit.
However, something Vowles will be able to influence as soon as the season gets going is Williams’ race strategy. It’s area that could yield instant rewards, and it’s something that Williams has seen the value of, and has been slowly improving since the days of Claire Williams’ uber-conservative approach.
And Vowles’ strategy calls have contributed to over a ton of race wins so he’s pretty good at it!
When you’re as far back as Williams has been of late, there’s more to gain than there is to lose, so we could be in for some real creative thinking around strategy to outwit the competition even if Williams can’t beat them on pace.