James Vowles





Date of birth:

June 20, 1979

Country of birth:

United Kingdom

Team principal since:

January 2, 2023

‘Valtteri, it’s James.’ His voice is probably more recognizable than his name: for years, James Vowles was the chief strategist at Mercedes, and thus frequently heard over the radio. His most famous statements were, of course, the team orders to Valtteri Bottas to make way for Lewis Hamilton, which invariably began with the now iconic: ‘Valtteri, it’s James…’

However, instructing Bottas to step aside was far from the only thing Vowles did at the Mercedes pit wall. As a master strategist, Vowles was also a kind of right-hand man to team boss Toto Wolff, while he and ‘Bono’ (Peter Bonnington) would occasionally step in to give Hamilton instructions, explain tactics, or calm him down.

According to Vowles, he had been contemplating the opportunity to move up a few positions at the pit wall for several years. The Brit began his Formula 1 career as an engineer and then became a strategy chief, before taking on the slightly more prestigious role of strategy director at Mercedes in recent years.

New Environment

With his move to Williams and promotion to team boss, Vowles leaves his old nest, which has gone by various names during his tenure. When he first arrived at the factory in Brackley, the team was still known as BAR, before subsequently transforming into Honda and Brawn GP, and finally becoming Mercedes at the end of 2009.

The metamorphosis from Brawn to Mercedes followed ‘the double’ (winning the drivers’ and constructors’ title) in 2009. With Mercedes, it was a wait until 2014 for new success, but after that it came in abundance, with seven drivers’ and eight constructors’ crowns. As success is something that has been lacking at the fallen top team Williams for decades, Vowles faces quite a challenge.

Joining a Team with a Rich History

“It is an honor to join a team with such a rich history,” Vowles stated upon his appointment as team boss of Williams. An interesting detail: after founder Frank Williams and Jost Capito (2020 – 2022), he is only the third Williams team boss from that same rich history. However, it should be noted that Claire Williams, as deputy, held the reins for a long time.

No Longer a Family Team

Since the sale to investment firm Dorilton Capital in 2020, Williams is no longer a family team. However, it can still rightly be called a traditional team, as only Ferrari and McLaren have been around longer. Perhaps Williams relies too much on tradition, on ‘how it used to be’ and a dormant staff, which team boss Vowles now needs to wake up.

Dorilton CEO Matthew Savage has no doubt that with the British engineer, they have the right man in the right place. “We believe we have found in James an energetic, experienced, and strong leader who can transform Williams.” Vowles now needs to make his voice heard within Williams – although as team boss, this will be much less on the radio. Vowles: “I am looking forward to this challenge.”

Grand Plans

Vowles clearly has grand plans for Williams. The team has not been able to compete for the title for many years. This did not change in 2023, but that was not Vowles’ goal. He is embarking on a long-term project. The team must be improved step by step. With drivers Alexander Albon and Logan Sargeant, things are looking good for now. But the biggest stumbling block is the team’s facilities. “Some things here are twenty years outdated,” the team boss explains. “We need to make significant changes in this area to continue improving. The things I have asked of the team have been described as ‘doing three years of development in six months’.”

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