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‘We’re here to start fighting for proper positions’ – Vowles reveals ‘sacrifice’ Williams have made to improve performance

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James Vowles has opened up about the philosophy shift he has introduced at Williams over the last 12 months as he looks to carry out a full rebuild and return the famous team to winning ways in the future.

Vowles, formerly of Mercedes, took on the team boss role at Grove in the build-up to the 2023 season and guided the operation to seventh in the constructors’ standings – ahead of AlphaTauri (now RB), Alfa Romeo (now Kick Sauber) and Haas.

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However, despite that immediate rise from the foot of the 2022 order, Vowles made clear that his and the squad’s approach going forward is very much focused on the medium to long-term and writing another chapter of success after Williams’ glory days in the 1980s and ’90s.

“The change that takes place isn’t going to be the one of 12 months, 24 months or really even 36 months, it’s years and years of just properly finding out where we’re strong and where we’re not strong,” Vowles explained in a pre-season interview.

“[It’s] digging out the bits that aren’t strong in the organisation, which for much of it will be infrastructure that’s 20 years old, and it takes time to replace that. These machineries and items are not off the shelf, they’re custom made for our purposes and requirements. That includes whether we’re talking about software or hardware solutions.

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Vowles has been Team Principal at Williams for just over a year

“So, time is always going to be your friend. However, if I look back to where we were 12 months ago... it’s something I ask the organisation to do frequently, ‘Look back and remember where you were 12 months ago and then look with pride where you are today’, because it’s an enormous change in such a short space of time.

“Where we want to be is not the end solution; we have great aspirations to move up the grid. That’s a journey that we’re on and one that will take time, but it’s an exciting one.”

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Vowles then shared how Williams managed to balance making a step forward last year while putting enough focus on their 2024 package – the first car to include some of his “DNA”.

“We took risks,” he said. “We barely finished seventh in that championship and the last race could have gone either way – we could be eighth right now or seventh. There were moments, no doubt about it, in the last dying races last year where I thought, ‘This is going to be awfully tight’.

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The origins of the Williams F1 team

“But the good decision was made simply because we ended up seventh, the best we could have ever ended up last year... admittedly by the skin of our teeth, but we made it there. Therefore, I have no doubts on the decision we made, but even if we’d finished eighth, I still wouldn’t debate it.

“It isn’t about one year anymore, and for that matter it’s not about 2024 either or 2025, and that’s not meaning to sound defeatist, that’s more presenting to everyone that we have aspirations to keep moving up the grid. We’re prepared to sacrifice the current years to be able to do that.

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“That’s a large philosophy change and it’s a hard philosophy change, but it’s one that I’m confident is the right one. We’re not here to fight for seventh or eighth, or for that matter fifth, we’re here to start fighting for proper positions.

“If we’re going to do that, we have to accept that we’re going to break infrastructure, break systems, redevelop ourselves, not leave any stone unturned. That’s difficult for organisations but that’s the path we’re on.”

Williams sit seventh in the standings after the opening two rounds of 2024, having failed to score in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – Alex Albon coming close with a P11 finish on the streets of Jeddah.

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