Williams Racing Team Principal James Vowles was on the sofa at the FIA’s pre-race press conference for the Dutch Grand Prix alongside Franz Tost (AlphaTauri) and Guenther Steiner (Haas) on Friday afternoon.
Speaking between FP1 and FP2, James answered questions from the media on a wide range of topics. Here’s a summary of what JV had to say.
Reflecting on the opening 12 races of the season.
I'm very proud of what the team has achieved. They've come from several years of really being punished and not achieving a terrible amount, and their heads are lifted high, they're responding to the direction of travel that we're going into and oddly, you can see the start of a cultural change as well, that’s happening.
A culture doesn't change overnight. It doesn't change even in six months. It's years’ worth of work. But the facts are the team is ready to change. And that's one of the things I'm proud of them for.
And I think, you know, there's points we've left on the table but for the most part, we've picked up every point that we could so far.
Where we are, tied up with Haas, I think is a fantastic position, a position that we would have dreamed of before the season started.
Where we go from here though, is this is the start of the journey and what I'm more excited by is the next few years rather than the last few months.
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On the lessons he has learned as a team principal.
There are many. It would take this entire press conference for me to probably summarise them but I'd be disappointed if I'm not continuously learning through this journey, every single month, every single year and be disappointed if you didn't ask me that question in one year time, and I still didn't answer, ‘I'm still learning every day’.
The largest thing is this you move from running small teams, even large teams, to an organisation, and they're very different requirements.
There's not one single day where you're focused on the same thing. Typically you are in about 10 to 12 different meetings, each one of those on different subjects: it can be drivers, marketing, what’s happening in Las Vegas, engineering, performance, aerodynamics.
And it's exciting. It's interesting, it'll keep you on your toes the whole time. And I think that dynamic and the ability to have to cover off so many subject areas so quickly was… nothing can really train you for it until you’re in it.
On focusing on 2024
Yeah, the car we have, that’s it. Unlike Haas, who I think are a fierce adversary, a fierce fight, we don’t have anything more coming for the remainder of the year.
So, we have to try and pick up the points that are going to be available to us when they're going to be available to us. The focus – and not just now, but actually from a while back – has been on ’24, and actually part of the focus on ’25 and on ’26 as well.
At the moment, we're in a fierce battle for tenth, ninth, eighth and seventh. I want the team, for them, and for me as well to be in a fierce battle for positions above there.
And you can't do that by continuously developing what you have at the moment. You do that by thinking forward into the future, and that will have a cost associated with it, potentially even going backwards for a year, but to go forward again in the future.
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On Alex Albon
His message I think was on point, which is he should be aiming for winning races and being on the podium.
He has the potential and he frankly deserves to be in that position. But more so that's a journey he's happy to do with Williams, whilst we're on the pathway towards it at the same time.
And I think that's the perfect summary of that situation. He's a racing driver coming to the peak of his career, he should absolutely be focused on doing the best he can with his God-given ability, while it still exists.
But his lifecycle is 10… I mean, if you look at Fernando, it's 13 years that he has in front of him. He has a good amount of time in front of him now.
But I'd be disappointed if any teammate joined me and said 'All I'm interested in doing is scoring the odd point’. They shouldn't. They should be focused on winning races and performing at the utmost.
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On Logan Sargeant
Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. It's a fierce competition. It's a meritocracy. You have to earn your place there. He has to keep developing and moving forward. It needs improvements on consistency, which I’ve said throughout the season.
The gap to Alex needs to remain the same and shrink over time. If we take a step back, we've put Logan in a situation where he came straight out of F2, had a day and a half of testing… Good luck, you’re a Formula 1 driver.
And, I think, when I reflect on this year, this is probably more difficult than any other year I’ve been in the sport for throwing someone in at the deep end and allowing them the time to catch up.
We didn’t do any running in previous Williams cars, that was it. His time here is his time here.
There are elements where he keeps growing and finding performance and improvements and performance under pressure. That’s what we’re looking for.
The rate of learning has to increase now. He’s aware of all of that, and I think he has a huge maturity beyond his years.
He knows that in front of him is a career and a journey that’s within his power to control. And our job is to support him on that journey rather than punish him.
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