James Vowles says his move from chief strategist at Mercedes to team principal at Williams is not “a massive leap”, insisting his journey towards the role has been in his head “for many years”.
Friday’s announcement by Williams that Vowles had been appointed as the Grove-based outfit’s new team boss came out of the blue.
The 43-year-old British engineer has spent 21 years at Brackley and has been a key figure on the team, devising countless winning race strategies on the Mercedes pitwall on Sundays.
On a media call with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, Vowles shed some light on how and when his decision to move to Williams had been decided.
“I’ve been chatting to Williams over the last month or so,” he revealed.
“Very clearly, we all have a relationship inside this sport, so it wasn’t that it was a complete cold call.
“From my perspective, the conversation just started picking up initially because it’s an incredible opportunity and I feel like I can add to it.
“And really from both sides, both Williams and myself, we concluded that the fit is very very good after a number of meetings with the board.
“We actually found a way of working, a way of thinking, a way of approaching things, culture, people, systems, was incredibly aligned.
“It was at that point that were I brought Toto into the conversation to let him know what my will and desire was.”
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Volwes admitted that Wolff’s reaction to his chief strategist’s decision to move was “the best I could have hoped for”.
“I think from my perspective Toto, in fairness, wasn’t really made aware of it until late on, so just a few weeks ago, really into the new year,” he added.
“Toto’s response was the best I could have hoped for. He has been incredibly good in terms of accommodating this change.
“Mercedes know it’s obviously a loss, but in a way it’s a gain because Williams fundamentally and for myself it ends up being a big step, and I think that is why you are seeing this collaborative nature.”
Wolff revealed that Mercedes has put together a contingency plan several years ago that would address the departure of a key member of the team.
Vowles himself had taken a step back last year from his chief strategist role to apply his expertise in other areas of the team. And he now feels more than ready to assume a leadership role with Williams.
“Fortunately, I’m not seeing it… it is a leap, it is a jump, but I don’t think it’s a massive leap,” he assured when asked if he felt he was facing a difficult task.
“I think this journey towards Team Principal has been one that has been in my head for many years, and Toto and Mercedes have been incredibly kind in order to provide me a pathway to get there.
“As Toto described a number of responsibilities fell my way in the last few years.
“However, it’s the same if I asked any of you to change what you’re doing and move on to a different organisation, even perhaps if you’re doing the same job.
“You have to reform your relationships, you have to build the team around you that you want, that you are with, and you have to reform those social groups that are now disappearing. Disappearing after 20 years.
“The best analogy I can use so far is almost like a divorce. It’s hard. That’s a lot of people that are incredibly close to me, that I’ve grown up with.”
“But I’m going into an arena that has people that are just as motivated, just as committed, and just as hungry for success,” he added.
“It’s a different starting point but the end goal is going to be hopefully no different. To answer your question, is it difficult? I don’t see it that way.
“Perhaps I’m getting carried away with the excitement and the want and will to start this, and get into this, but it’s not trepidation.
“I’m waking up every morning, I don’t mind saying, at five AM and just scribbling down thoughts, notes, directions. That is the level of motivation that is just going to keep me going for years and years. I’ I’m confident of it.”
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