Edd Straw examines reasons for James Vowles’ Williams appointment

© Jiri Krenek for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

F1 journalist Edd Straw says Williams would “be delighted to be able to appoint Wolff as team boss”, but “the next-best thing is someone who knows inside out how Wolff operates and what makes Mercedes so good”.

The big news of the day is the appointment of long-time Mercedes strategy boss James Vowles as Williams’ new team principal.

In his new column, The Race’s Edd Straw examined why Williams believes Vowles is their best bet for success in the future.

“Unlike [Jost] Capito [Williams’ former CEO and team boss], Vowles is simply team principal with no wider CEO role,” Straw wrote.

“That is logical given his CV as he’s an experienced racing team operative rather than being someone with a CV full of stints running companies.

“Williams is therefore likely to appoint a separate CEO, or equivalent, down the line. That tells us emphatically the structure of the team is different.

“But in asking the question why has Williams has gone down this road, there are some obvious conclusions.

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“Firstly, Vowles is a Wolff ‘disciple’. He’s worked alongside Wolff for the past decade and is part of the brain trust at the top of the team.

“He was more than just being the voice on the radio that apologises when strategy backfires – he had an input that stretched far beyond that.

“This means he’s steeped in the culture and working practices of Mercedes. Williams would probably be delighted to be able to appoint Wolff as team boss, but that’s clearly impossible.

“The idea is that the next-best thing is someone who knows inside out how Wolff operates and what makes Mercedes so good.”

Straw then pointed to Mercedes’ no-blame culture as something that Vowles could bring to the team.

“Wolff has frequently stressed this, saying that ‘our culture is a solid building block for future performances, it is the immune system of the team’.

“And that culture isn’t just about one person at the top, it is everywhere in the team. This is the magic that Williams needs Vowles to bring to the team.

“He’s lived and breathed the success of Mercedes, has seen what teams that aren’t doing well look like and has a good understanding of Wolff’s way of doing things.

“And Wolff is a passionate enthusiast for managerial strategic thinking so you can be certain that as well as seeing how Wolff operates, there will have been endless conversations about this philosophy over the years.”

Straw also pointed to Mercedes’ synergy between departments as something that would be beneficial for Williams.

“Williams has many other problems to solve, including the long-standing struggles on the technical – and in particular aerodynamic – side and Vowles will also need to contribute to those.

“One clear idea he can bring from Mercedes is how to foster greater inter-departmental understanding given how often politics can undermine a team’s efforts,” Straw concluded.

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