Williams’ James Vowles insists he will not copy Mercedes

James Vowles, the team boss of Williams, delivers a straightforward message about the team’s prospects for 2024. Despite having the opportunity to invest additional funds beyond the budget cap, Vowles sets a clear boundary for expectations: It is “not realistic” for Williams to target a major step forward in 2024, he asserts.

Vowles, who has a significant history with Mercedes, highlights the progress of Williams’ current drivers. He draws attention to Alex Albon’s evolution, noting, “The Alex you see today is different than the Alex when he was at Red Bull or the Alex at the start of last season. He lacked belief in himself, but he has it now. He is happy, he is a leader, he sets the direction. I think if many other drivers had to drive a Williams tomorrow, they would probably struggle.”

Regarding Logan Sargeant, a rookie in 2023, Vowles acknowledges the challenges he faced but points out Sargeant’s commendable progress. “But since Suzuka he didn’t miss much compared to Alex. He made progress race after race, relative to himself and also to Alex. He reduced the error rate and he did what we asked him to do. Sometimes you have to give people a chance.”

Williams, having finished last in the constructors’ championship in 2022, showed improvement by beating Alpha Tauri, Alfa Romeo, and Haas in the subsequent season. However, Vowles remains realistic about surpassing teams like Alpine and Aston Martin in 2024. “That’s not realistic,” he admits, “I know the true gap between the teams and I know our speed of development. And what we want to change is still too far away to allow us to take that step this year. I am confident that we will be better off, but I won’t do anything that jeopardizes our long-term goal.”

Vowles also discusses his approach towards building the team’s strategy, differentiating it from his tenure at Mercedes. “It sounds strange, but I don’t want to copy anything. Then I wouldn’t learn anything about the new team and leave its strengths untapped. My experience with my old team is just a reference, but that won’t get you anywhere in Formula 1. You have to say to yourself ‘This is where I am, this is where I want to go’. Then I have to come up with the mechanisms to get me there.”

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