No major restructure for Mercedes with Vowles departure

James Vowles celebrated with Lewis Hamilton after masterminding his 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix win

James Vowles celebrated with Lewis Hamilton after masterminding his 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix win. Picture: Photo4 / XPB Images

Toto Wolff says James Vowles’ move to Williams will not create “a big weakness” given it has long planned for its now former strategist to move on.

Vowles becomes the new Williams Team Principal effective February 20 after playing an integral role in eight constructors’ championships and seven drivers’ championships for the Silver Arrows.

While the departure of Mercedes’ Motorsport Strategy Director is an extremely significant one, he had already been moved off his pit wall role midway through last year and is not set to be directly replaced.

“As an organisation, we have to always be prepared that we could lose members of the organisation because they just don’t enjoy any more what they do or they have a different opportunity with a new company,” said Wolff, who can now count Vowles as his counterpart given he is Mercedes’ Team Principal.

“There is no gap behind, since [for] many years we have discussed succession planning in this area.

“We’ve been very reliant on James’ ability and we put an emphasis a few years ago on how that would continue if one day he would decide to do something else, within Mercedes or outside, and James was very good in setting that up.

“We have an extremely talented team of strategists – nine people – some very senior that are not always on the frontline and some that have grown within the organisation.

“They have flown the aeroplane alone now in the last six months and before that already very much just under James’ supervision, so I feel very comfortable in this structure going forward and not suddenly there is a big weakness created.”

Vowles’ step into a Team Principal role is also said to have been met enthusiastically by Lewis Hamilton.

“I have told him this week that this is going to happen and he’s absolutely fine,” recounted Wolff.

“Working with James has always been a great pleasure for him; the clever thinking on the Sunday mornings, that was good fun with James always.

“But, I think his first response was ‘That’s amazing for James’ and I think this is an important sentence.”

Vowles himself added, “For what it’s worth, I called him last night and those were the first words that came out of his mouth.

“Not insulting me or telling me he’s disappointed; it’s quite the opposite.

“In fact, I’d probably say throughout Mercedes. I’ve had the fortune that near enough everyone I’ve spoken to has been just incredibly happy.”

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