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How key architect of dominant Mercedes team is transforming Williams

How key architect of dominant Mercedes team is transforming Williams

How key architect of dominant Mercedes team is transforming Williams

How key architect of dominant Mercedes team is transforming Williams

Formula 1 fans are getting insight into the brains behind Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton's incredible success.

All the decision-making behind the Silver Arrows' title-winning strategic calls might never become public outside of seeing pit stops and tyre choices.

READ MORE: Red Bull boss issues WARNING after claiming rivals are ahead in Japan

Nonetheless, that isn't preventing attentive eyes from seeing how the mind behind so many race wins operates.

Ex-Mercedes Chief Strategist James Vowles worked for the Brackley-based team from their Brawn GP origins and made the calls that led to so many of their victories.

READ MORE: Cheeky Hamilton reveal sets social media ablaze ahead of Japanese GP

Vowles' championship credentials

Vowles took Mercedes to titles

Few people in the sport can say they've worked alongside so many world champions as Vowles, who has Nico Rosberg, Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button, Jacques Villeneuve and Hamilton as former colleagues.

Vowles didn't bring all of those drivers their championships, with Villeneuve and Schumacher's titles coming without the Brit's assistance, but there are still 17 constructors' and drivers' crowns he had a direct hand in between 2009 and 2021.

Now at Grove to spearhead Williams' progression back up the field, Vowles' decision-making is finally coming to the fore.

It should come as no surprise that someone with so much strategic thinking in their history will make long-term calls for the good of the team rather than immediately plastering over cracks.

An example of how Vowles is willing to handle short-term pain for the good of his team came to light earlier this year in surprise fashion.

Williams used a vast Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to manage their cars' 20,000 parts before Vowles took the plunge to force the team into the 21st century and modernise.

Vowles made this decision even though he knew it'd hurt the start of the 2024 season - even an inefficient system that everyone was familiar with would initially beat out an efficient process that no one understood.

Off-season gambling

Vowles is now at Williams

The convoluted database led Williams' employees to labouriously hunt for undocumented parts when building the car, causing Vowles to label the system a 'joke'.

Going through the off-season introducing new resource planning systems alongside putting together the 2024 cars is a one-time pain that needed to happen one year, and Vowles took the gamble to do it after 2023.

Almost cruelly, this strategic decision hurt Williams in the short term, with the team not having a spare chassis readily available for their drivers in Melbourne after Alex Albon's dramatic FP1 crash.

By chasing lap time gains and prioritising performance over a spare chassis, Vowles has overseen Williams' move further away from their backmarker position before they were caught with their carbon fibre pants down in Australia.

It's not often a team must rely on a spare chassis, however, and it shows that Vowles would've assessed the low likelihood of writing off a car against the opportunities to fight for points; Albon's unusually destructive crash just came at the worst time.

READ MORE: Verstappen makes surprising retirement admission with Red Bull future uncertain

There's no I in team

Hamilton often beat Bottas

Yet it led to further examples of how Vowles views the world and why Mercedes took so many victories under his strategic control.

Vowles makes decisions by logic rather than emotion - seemingly computing the best possible outcome for his employer rather than for the success of one driver.

At Mercedes, that was often to the benefit of Hamilton over Valtteri Bottas, leading to his then-rare team radio appearance in 2018: "Valtteri, it's James. Please hold position, I'm sorry."

Those meme-worthy words came at the German GP, where the Silver Arrows took a 1-2 victory in intermittent conditions while Vowles' old team were locked in a tight championship fight against Ferrari.

The best possible outcome for Mercedes then was to secure the maximum 43 points, and the best chance for 43 points came from the two lead cars not scrapping for position after Sebastian Vettel crashed out of the race.

READ MORE: Former F1 star claims Ricciardo has BLOWN his 'last chance'

Team-first mentality

Albon crashed in Australia

That same mindset put Albon in the sole remaining Williams chassis at Albert Park rather than Logan Sargeant, even though it was the American's car.

Albon scored 27 of the team's 28 points in 2023, so for an analytical mind like Vowles', the Anglo-Thai driver would be the clear and logical best chance to take a top-10 finish.

The harsh decision to take Sargeant out of the seat for a crash he didn't make might've gone the other way for a people-pleasing or less-strategic Team Principal, but not Vowles.

Even handing Sargeant Albon's repaired car for Japan instead of putting the American back in his undamaged Bahrain and Saudi Arabian machine shows Vowles is happy making tough calls that give Williams the best chance of points.

He is a numbers man, and those numbers took Hamilton to six titles, Mercedes to eight, and Rosberg, Button, and Brawn to each of their solitary championships.

It might be a long time off, but Vowles making the difficult decisions today could return Williams to winning ways in their future.

READ MORE: Hamilton names 'AMAZING' Mercedes replacement choice

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