James Vowles has admitted his time acting as Motorsport Strategy Director at the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team did not give him the full picture of how life would be as Team Principal.
Vowles left Mercedes at the end of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season to become Team Principal at Williams Racing, and he feels like he has jumped into the deep end by doing so as he did not know everything he would need to do.
Partly this is down to switching to a brand-new team after many years working for Mercedes across multiple roles, and although he learned a lot from Toto Wolff, the Team Principal of his former team, he knows now that the job involves a lot more than he realised it would.
“You migrate from knowing one thing for many, many years – remembering that it was 20-odd years that I was at the previous place,” Vowles said to Sky Sports F1. “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.”
Comparing the two teams, Vowles says the underinvestment within Williams across multiple years shows, and his new team is currently within a ‘transformational period’ as they look to regain its true competitiveness back at the front of the field.
However, he acknowledges that despite the funds not being there, Williams has done a remarkable job to do what they have done, and there are plenty of amazing people within the organisation who want to see the team return to its glory days.
“They are two different organisations held within a pitlane just 400 metres apart,” said Vowles. “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 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.”