New team principal James Vowles insists Williams will not become a “mini-Mercedes” on his watch.
Vowles has spent more than two decades at Mercedes’ Brackley base and was instrumental to the team’s overwhelming success in recent years, most recently as a highly regarded strategy director.
But he has been released from his Mercedes contract and jumped ship to Williams, who last month parted company with team principal and chief executive Jost Capito after just two years in the role.
While the Formula One teams have ties – Mercedes provide Williams with engines and gear boxes – Vowles bristled at suggestions there would be closer links after the announcement of his move was made public.
“Williams is an incredibly independent team in its own right that has formed its own history, its own heritage,” he said. “There’s no mini-Mercedes or B-team or any of that notion.
“This is about me standing on my own two legs and making a success with an organisation. My success is subject and dependent on me doing a good job there – 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.
“When you put a crisp Williams shirt on, that’s where you are, that’s where your loyalty is and that’s where my success and the team’s success will come from.”
Vowles, who takes up his new post on February 20, oversaw the race strategy at Brawn that led to Jenson Button winning the 2009 drivers’ title and the team claiming the constructors’ crown.
After Brawn transitioned into Mercedes the next year, Vowles was one of team principal and CEO Toto Wolff’s right-hand men who helped the team win eight constructors’ titles in a row from 2014 to 2021.
Lewis Hamilton won six drivers’ titles during that period and had warm words for Vowles upon discovering the 43-year-old was heading for Williams.
“His first response was, ‘that’s amazing for James’ – I think this is maybe the importance sentence,” Wolff said.
Vowles added: “For what it’s worth, when I called him those were the first words that came out of his mouth, not insulting me or telling me he’s disappointed, it’s quite the opposite.”
Williams will be hoping the appointment of Vowles can help to usher in a sea change in their fortunes after finishing bottom of the constructors’ championship in four of the last five years.
He is optimistic Dorilton, the US investment group which acquired Williams in 2020, will provide sufficient funding but warned “the impact will probably take a while to kick in”.
“The best analogy I’ve used so far is this is almost like a divorce,” added Vowles, who revealed there is currently “no intention at the moment” to appoint a chief executive at Williams.
“But I’m going into an arena that has people that are just as intelligent, just as motivated, just as committed and just as hungry for success. It’s a different starting point but the end goal is going to be hopefully no different.”
There has been an amicable parting of the ways between Vowles and Mercedes, with Wolff, a former Williams director between 2009 and 2013, praising his former employee.
“Within our organisation for him to move up I would have needed to move aside and I feel still there is something left in me and that I can contribute,” Wolff said.
“Good people will make their own way in their careers. You cannot stop someone that’s reaching out for the stars, you just need to embrace that.
“James has been around a long time. He has seen it all. I have no doubt Williams choosing him is a fantastic move for them.”