Ex-Mercedes strategy chief Vowles was handed the top job at Williams for 2023 but accepted that on-track results last year and for 2024 were insignificant so long as it allowed the squad to bring about more sustained improvement starting in 2025 before a major push the following season.
That drawn out time frame will allow for the revised design department structure (led by new chief technical officer Pat Fry) and upgraded facilities to bed in and influence car performance.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Vowles recalled walking around the Williams factory just prior to the most recent summer break to discover an etching machine from the “Ming Dynasty” that was as big as a motorhome, compared to the table-sized equivalent at Mercedes.
This, he said, underscored where Williams needed to progress.
He said: “I was walking around the facility with [Frederic Brousseau, chief operating officer]just basically having a look at the changes that we’re going to make – in terms of facility changes, not worker changes.
“We were looking at some of the machinery. We have a particular machine that’s downstairs, this is for the new car as well, it’s in composites.
“As you walk through the composites door and look straight on, I’ve never known what that machine is. It’s an etching machine.
“Fred walked in and said: ‘This is from the Ming Dynasty, just so you’re aware!’. I said: ‘Oh, that’s brilliant, that’s good to know!’.
“So, this machine is the length of our motorhome. Normally, it would be the size of a table.
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing
“So, it’s just an example of something I’d never actually walked into and understood. That’s what I meant by ‘the learning continues on where we need to progress’.”
Vowles also addressed the early stages of his Williams tenure during a recent appearance on the High Performance Podcast, during which he noted that the Grove team could beat eight-time constructors’ champion Mercedes for passion.
“The start of it is, actually, finding out what our strengths and weaknesses are,” said Vowles of his first weeks on the job. “Every organization will have strengths and weaknesses.
“There are elements here that are stronger than Mercedes. One of them is passion, which is what drives this team. This team still has a family behind it, which I like.”