Bad news for Mercedes and Hamilton?  

At first glance, Mercedes losing their head of strategy less than two months before the start of the new season will be seen as a blow. 

Vowles has been a major part of Mercedes over the past decade and played an integral role in much of the team’s recent F1 success. He called the shots from the pitwall and acted as one of the few key senior members of staff working under team principal Toto Wolff to help run Mercedes. 

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"James has been a highly valued member of our team in his role as motorsport strategy director, playing an integral part in our success in recent years,” Wolff said. 

"Having worked with him since I first joined the team in 2013, I know how diligent, capable and talented he is, and have taken great satisfaction from watching James develop and grow over the past decade.” 

The move ultimately came with Mercedes’ blessing, suggesting the team were already preparing for such an eventuality. 

“Since stepping back from the pit wall mid-season last year, he has continued to build the capability of our strategy team at Brackley, and we have a fantastic group of talented strategists who will continue their superb work in the years to come,” Wolff added. 

"While we are naturally sad to be saying goodbye to such a capable member of the team, I have no doubts whatsoever that he has all the necessary skills to become a fantastic team principal in F1.”

Volwes played a hand in some of Mercedes’ standout victories of the past few years, with brilliant strategy calls in Hungary 2019 and Spain 2021 paving the way for memorable Hamilton wins. 

However, Mercedes’ strategic department has also faced their fair share of criticism, particularly since Mercedes’ car has been less dominant. Questionable strategic choices were made in Austria 2018 and in the Netherlands, United States and Mexico City last season, while Mercedes arguably threw away a certain victory at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix. 

It marks another high-profile departure - following the exit of engine guru Andy Cowell, and stepping back from duties of former technical director James Allison - and a slow break up of the once dominant Mercedes team. 

What will Vowles bring to Williams? 

At 43, Vowles will become the youngest team principal in F1. 

While it will mark his first senior management job, he brings a wealth of experience drawn up from his 21-year career working in engineering and race strategy roles. 

Vowles also has race-winning and championship-winning know-how from his time at Brawn and Mercedes, something Williams have long been lacking.

Vowles’s hiring reflects the transformation of Williams following Dorilton Capital’s takeover in late 2020, as the team looks to move back towards the front of the grid in the coming years after finishing bottom of the F1 constructors’ standings in four of the last five seasons.

It also hints at a change of management structure, with Vowles simply acting as team principal rather than taking on the joint team principal/CEO responsibilities carried out by his predecessor Jost Capito, who stepped down at the end of 2022. 

“James is one of the most highly respected talents in Formula 1 and will bring performance,” said Dorilton chairman Matthew Savage. 

"He has been a key part of some of the most impressive feats in the sport over the past 15 years.

"We believe that the appointment of James reinforces our dedication to ensuring we have energetic, experienced and strong leadership as we move into the next phase of transforming Williams Racing."

Intriguingly, the move also maintains the strong relationship that exists between Williams and engine supplier Mercedes, with the links extending to Wolff and George Russell, who made his F1 debut with Williams and drove for the team for three seasons prior to joining Mercedes.