Whom Vowles really needs to convince that he’s not a Mercedes “double agent”.


Formula 1’s newest team boss, James Vowles, was a Mercedes man for 13 years, a Brackley man for more than 20 years. Now he’s a Williams man.

Although some will have their doubts.

It’s easy to assume that Williams will now snuggle more with Mercedes, or that Toto Wolff, with whom Vowles worked for a decade and who is clearly on close terms, will now enjoy more influence in paddock politics now that he’s on one of them can count his students lead one of the other nine teams.

Vowles and Wolff quickly and resolutely rejected such notions, emphasizing the independence of their organizations. They may think they have little else to say, but it pays to pay attention to where they have their focus.

“If I ever got involved with James and asked him to be a mini Mercedes, he would tell me to go away,” Wolff said.

“James will do what is good for the team. It is measured by the success of the team.

“If Mercedes is helpful then we will talk about it and if he feels he needs to have another position then he will champion that position.”

Vowles added: “Williams is a completely independent organization. And it’s also one that my success depends on me doing a good job. And that has to be independent of Mercedes.

“That doesn’t mean that Mercedes and we won’t work together in some way. There was a collaboration before I joined. But I have to do what’s best for Williams.

“I met with MI6 10 years ago, we described all the techniques we use in Formula 1. Many of these are reflected. But what is not reflected is the concept of double agents.

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“The second you put on a fresh Williams shirt, there you are, there is your loyalty. And that’s where my success and the success of the team will come from.

“There is no Mini-Mercedes or B-Team or anything like that.

“This is about me, standing on my own two feet and being successful with an organization around me.â€

Both touch on a similar trend: Vowles must act in Williams’ best interest because that will bring out the best in the team, and that in turn will best reflect on him.

Bending the knee to Mercedes would undermine that. Any perception that he is there for training before attempting the Mercedes job (or any other job) will diminish his authority. Williams must be the sole focus and Vowles will fail if he approaches it any other way.

Internet skeptics and snooping competitors in the paddock are irrelevant here. Most notably, the staff that Vowles will now be in charge of must accept the idea that he’s not a double agent, that he comes across as a thorough-going Williams man.

Williams appeared desperately divided internally, with a rift between those longing to protect the Frank Williams/Patrick Head path and those who have supported big reforms.

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If this workforce thinks the team boss doesn’t want to be there, thinks he’s above it, or thinks he has to serve Mercedes first, then why should they believe anything the boss says? Vowles could not ask anyone to believe in his vision, his decisions, and his leadership if he was just passing through.

Vowles needs to get to the factory to really get Williams to believe what he’s trying to achieve, but if he combines common sense with genuine enthusiasm, he has every chance of success.

After all, the least Williams deserves and asks for is a team boss who gives everything. And Vowle’s first impression is that he will tick that box.

Given that his predecessor, Jost Capito, joined Williams towards the end of his career after apparently postponing his retirement to take over the job, the importance of Vowles’s dedication shouldn’t be overlooked.

“I’m going into an arena where there are people who are just as smart, just as motivated and just as dedicated (like Mercedes),” Vowles said. “And just as hungry for success.

“It is a different starting point. But the end goal will hopefully be no different.

“Is it difficult? I disagree. Maybe I’ll get carried away with the excitement and want and want to start and really get into it, but it’s not trepidation.

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“I wake up at 5am every morning and just write down thoughts, notes and instructions.

“This is a motivation that will drive me for years, I’m confident.â€

Though actions speak louder than words, it is not lip service. You can believe Vowles really thinks that way because he knows the job will require it.

He may have a good relationship with Wolff or even join Mercedes’ interests in matters beneficial or even neutral to Williams. But he has to fight back when there is a conflict. And he must mold Williams in his own image, not copy Mercedes.

That will have the double effect of not only ensuring Williams’ interests are represented as best as possible, but of convincing his team that he is doing everything in his favour.





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