James Vowles shares three-word guidance from Toto Wolff about Williams F1 job

Toto Wolff gave James Vowles some blunt advice about taking over Williams

James Vowles
James Vowles

James Vowles has revealed the amusing advice he received from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff prior to taking on his new F1 role with Williams.

Vowles, a central figure at Mercedes as the head of strategy during their period of dominance of F1 from 2014 to 2021, was appointed Williams’ new team principal ahead of the 2023 season.

The 44-year-old Briton left Mercedes with Wolff’s blessing and enjoyed a successful first campaign at Williams, leading the team to seventh place in the constructors’ championship.

Opening up about the guidance Wolff offered him before joining Williams, Vowles told the High Performance podcast: “I think he said ‘don’t be s**t’ was his advice! Which I’m trying to do!

“Other than that, he knows that I’ve been forming for this for quite a while, so there was little he could provide for me above it.

“Even today, I would say Fred [Vasseur, Ferrari Team Principal] and Otmar [Szafnaeur] before he left and a few others were guiding voices. I can happily call them, even though they are adversaries, not ask for advice but they can give me guidance.”

Vowles added: “Toto was kind enough with his time to give me as much experience as he could, he knew where he was forming me towards.

“It doesn’t mean that I had a job within Mercedes to be Team Principal there, but he provided me his time and knowledge and experience and more responsibilities.

“That started happening, so simulator drivers, then race drivers, start to come beneath me and I started working with our Formula E outfit, GT3 team, elements of the cost cap and other bits. I just kept pulling it in.

“Of course you can’t do it all at once, so what I did was built a team that did all the strategy bits for me so I could focus on the growth.

“Once you’ve based yourself out of engineering and focused on how the company runs, you have a better idea of how to step into this role.”

Vowles led Williams to a seventh-place finish in the 2023 constructors’ championship, a significant step after they were bottom of the pile a year earlier.

Their star driver Alex Albon, whose F1 career was once in jeopardy after he left Red Bull, has hugely impressed and is the subject of admiring glances from the biggest teams on the grid.

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