Vowles is Williams’ F1 team principal for F1 2023, taking over from Jost Capito, who left the team before Christmas.

Vowles has been Mercedes’ chief strategist for over a decade, playing an integral role in the team’s and Lewis Hamilton’s incredible title success.

Why we need to take George Russell more seriously...

The move prompted some suggestions that Vowles was using Williams to build up his experience, like with George Russell, before returning to Mercedes to potentially replace Toto Wolff when he no longer wants to run the team.

Wolff has played this suggestion down, however, Chandhok seems to think otherwise.

“I think it caught most of the paddock by surprise,” he said.

“I do wonder whether there’s some Mercedes element to this deal, because it’s very rare that you find someone certainly in a senior position of a team move across with zero gardening leave, and James has done that, so clearly a very amicable thing.

“I mean, to the point of which I think Mercedes, basically, were orchestrating the press announcement in some ways, certainly liaising with the media.”

With Williams finishing bottom of the F1 constructors’ standings in four of the last five seasons, Chandhok believes Vowles will find it tricky to turn the team around quickly. 

“I think it’s a good move,” Chandhok added. “Actually, I like the fact that they’ve gone for a bold move in terms of getting someone who hasn’t done the role before, but someone with an engineering background, who’s recently worked with a top team.

“He’s going to bring technical knowledge, he’s going to bring an understanding of a team structure that perhaps Williams didn’t have in recent times. And he’s a smart guy, we all know James in the paddock, he’s got a strong work ethic.

“But F1 teams are like big tankers, you can’t just pivot quickly, it’s going to take a long time and a lot of work. I think he’s got his work cut out for him.

“I think the biggest challenge is how quickly can he poach other top people from other teams. I think because you can have all the technology in the world but it is still a human sport. And you need that brainpower. So how quickly can he poach that brainpower? That will be key to his success.”