Williams is a team in transition after years of chronic underinvestment, and as part of its overhaul, owner Dorilton Capital appointed Vowles to replace outgoing team boss Jost Capito in January.
Vowles, Mercedes’ former Mercedes head of strategy, has the unenviable task of turning the team’s fortunes around.
Williams placed last in the 2022 championship, its fourth time at the bottom in six seasons, and has been languishing in the bottom three every year since 2018. But after his first few weeks at the helm, Vowles feels the historic Grove team has been injected with fresh energy.
“The best word I could use is ‘spark’,” Vowles said. “There’s a spark and it’s fascinating to see. There are shoulders lifted, there’s heads held high now, there is really direction that they can see where we’re going and how we’re moving forward.
“It’s a team clearly that have had a tremendously difficult winter and difficult few years even prior to that. But they can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel and direction we’re going in.”
Alex Albon, Williams Racing FW45
Photo by: Williams
With Capito, technical director FX Demaison and head of aerodynamics David Wheater also left Williams.
While those key technical roles remain vacant for now, Vowles already explained he would take his time to put in place a proper structure to take the team forward in the long term, even if that meant sacrificing progress this year.
Instead, Vowles’ first major play was to appoint a chief operating officer, hiring Canadian Frederic Brousseau to oversee the organisation’s planning and operations.
Brousseau brings vast experience from the aerospace industry after over 20 years at jet engine builder Pratt & Whitney Canada, where he rose through the ranks to become a vice president.
Expanding on his first high-profile hire, Vowles said: “A Formula 1 car is circa 15,000 components that have to be built, produced and fit together within the space of a few weeks.
“To get that properly done, you need an amount of planning across all of your organisation and that’s really what he brings to the table.
“He’s done that at Pratt & Whitney, he’s been there for over 20 years, he has a good experience and good knowledge about how to bring thousands of people – in our case, hundreds – together in a key clinch moment.
“And especially under the cost cap; the more efficient you can be at doing that, the more money that’s available to develop the car later. I think it’s a key element of every aspect of the team.”
Meanwhile Vowles continues his search to attract technical talent, with current members of the team’s technical departments filling in until a new tech director and head of aero have been found.
“Going forward, there’s a technical leadership where at the moment, I have lots of people standing in and doing a great job, but we need to supplement them with good experience from industry,” he acknowledged.