Vowles not present for 2023 Williams reveal

Williams on Monday pulled the wraps off its livery for 2023 without new boss James Vowles being in attendance.

While the new paint job is similar, the back-of-the-grid team has snapped up former McLaren sponsor Gulf Oil – but most were disappointed with the minor presence on the livery given recent rumours.

And, as has been the trend with other teams so far, the ‘launch’ did not actually reveal the new car – although a few new American sponsors have followed rookie Logan Sargeant onto the grid with Williams.

Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Tobias Gruner, however, noted that Williams “hasn’t landed any really big fish yet”.

Even high-profile new arrival James Vowles was not present for Monday’s proceedings, with the Oxfordshire-based team confirming that he is not arriving from Mercedes until February 20.

However, that is a much shorter period of ‘gardening leave’ than is usual in Formula 1.

“I do wonder if there isn’t some kind of Mercedes element in this deal,” former F1 driver and now British broadcaster for Sky, Karun Chandhok, said.

“It’s not very common that you don’t send someone in such an important position on gardening leave, so this is clearly an act of kindness,” he smiled.

In Vowles’ place on Monday, technical boss Dave Robson said of Vowles: “I’ve only been able to say hello to him so far.

“But he comes with a lot of experience and is certainly fully motivated. The whole team is looking forward to working with him.

“I think James knows exactly what a team needs to get to the top and stay there. With him, the next stage in the rebuilding of Williams begins.”

Williams finished a clear dead last in the 2022 constructors’ championship, but Robson admits that this year’s car is “an evolution” rather than a big development.

“The biggest visible change is the shape of the sidepod,” he said. “We would have liked to have brought this upgrade to Silverstone last year but we needed to adapt the layout of the radiators.

“The drivers have completed the first runs in the simulator and it seems that we have been able to eliminate some of the negative features of last year’s model,” he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

“Now of course we are curious to see if we can see the progress on the track.”

Robson also played down lingering rumours that, especially with Vowles’ appointment, Williams appears to only be strengthening its links to Mercedes.

“We are happy with the cooperation with Mercedes,” he admitted, “but we will maintain our independence. Going the Haas way is out of the question for us.”

Indeed, Williams is even leaving the door open to a clean break for the new engine rules in 2026.

“We’ll see what the future brings,” said Robson.

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