The Williams Formula 1 team lost sight of what excellence is during years of financial and sporting struggle, according to its new team principal James Vowles.
Vowles (pictured at left, above) replaced Jost Capito over the winter, but only began work at the team’s Grove, UK headquarters in February shortly before the start of pre-season testing. Joining from Mercedes — where he was motorsport strategy director — Vowles had been part of a long era of dominance. He refutes claims Williams team members are resistant to change but believes they haven’t had a view of what excellence is for a long time.
“I think the belief on (resistance) has changed as a result of everyone seeing the results they have achieved over the last few years,” Vowles said. “I’m not sure it’s so much in the way you’ve described anymore, as much it is just people that haven’t had necessarily their eyes opened to what excellence is.
“It has changed, and it’s very difficult when you remain within this tight-knit world of where you are you sometimes don’t have the vision of what it looks like, and I think that’s more what we’re having here.”
Although Mercedes slipped from championship contention last season, Vowles says the impact of the lack of investment in Williams over a long period was clear from the moment he arrived and means it will take a long time to address deficits in personnel and resources.
“The team has, over the last 15 years, been through a tremendous amount of difficulty, financially and otherwise. It’s survived through all of that, but it is just survival compared to other organizations that have had finance. That’s the luxury I’ve had prior to joining here, and as a result of that you have these stark differences between where we are today and where we need to be in the future.
“The cost cap is a limiting factor on all of these things, simply because it puts us in a position where there’s a limited amount of (capital expenditure) and it won’t be enough to spend our way to success, as I would probably define it. So the pathway is to a certain extent a number of years required to get some of the core facilities to the level required to compete at the front. And that’s not the work of six months or 12 months.
“Further to that, as I’ve discussed externally previously as well, we are in a position where we are lacking key technical personnel and the team is definitely under strain at the moment to ensure we are filling those voids as best we can. So the pathway is not one of months, but years.”