Williams Racing, the UK-based Formula 1 (F1) motor racing team, has appointed Mercedes strategy chief James Vowles as its new team principal ahead of the 2023 season.
Vowels succeeds Jost Capito, who stepped down as Williams’ chief executive and team principal in December after two years in the role. He will officially take up the role on February 20, after he is released from his contract at Mercedes.
In a statement, Vowels said: “I cannot wait to start with Williams Racing. It’s an honor to join a team with such an incredibly rich heritage. The team is an icon of our sport, one I greatly respect, and I am very much looking forward to the challenge.
“Williams Racing have placed their faith and trust in me, and I will do the same in return. The team has tremendous potential, and our journey together starts in a matter of weeks.”
As Williams’ team principal, he will be charged with reviving the fortunes of a team that dominated the sport during the 1980s and 1990s but has finished bottom of the contractors’ standings in four of the last five seasons.
The team was bought by Dorilton Capital from founder Sir Frank Williams in 2020 after some difficult years on and off the track. At the time, the new owners said their ambition was to return the team to its former glory.
Dorilton Capital chairman Matthew Savage said: "[Vowels] is one of the most highly respected talents in F1 and will bring performance. He has been a key part of some of the most impressive feats in the sport over the past 15 years.
"As we continue our relentless pursuit for results, 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."
Vowels joins Williams having spent 13 years as a central figure at Mercedes since its inception in 2010 and during their domination of F1 from 2014 to 2021.
As motorsport strategy director, Vowels was part of a small group of senior personnel that ran the championship-winning team under principal Toto Wolff.
Vowels has been part of what is now Mercedes for 21 years, starting from when the team was named British American Racing. He stayed with the team through its guises as Honda, Brawn, and Mercedes, rising through the ranks from race engineer to his latest position in 2018.
The move also strengthens the links between the two teams. Mercedes is Williams’ long-time engine supplier, while Wolff is a former owner and director of Williams. Mercedes’ current driver George Russell spent three years at Williams before joining the team last year.
Responding to the move, 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.
"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 Formula 1.”
Williams has already announced a February 6 launch date for their 2023 car, which will be driven by American Logan Sargeant, who has joined the team to partner with Alex Albon.
The team is yet to announce a replacement for technical director Francois-Xavier Demaison, who also departed in December, or chief executive to succeed Capito.
Pre-season testing will run in Bahrain from February 23 to 25, with the first grand prix of the season at the same venue on March 5.