James Vowles reveals big restriction Toto Wolff placed on him upon leaving Mercedes

James Vowles replaced Jost Capito as Williams' team principal ahead of the 2023 Formula 1 season.

New Williams team principal James Vowles has revealed that he’s not allowed to poach employees from his former team Mercedes, with a clause in his contract stopping him from doing so.

Mercedes’ former strategy director has made a tremendous start to his new life as Williams boss, with Vowles having already led the Grove-based team to some terrific results.

In just the first three races of the 2023 F1 season, Williams have already scored a point, despite having entered the season tipped as likely backmarkers.

They’ve been anything but backmarkers this year, with Alex Albon having often been in the midst of the top 10, whilst rookie Logan Sargeant has been settling into the pinnacle of motorsport excellently.

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Their strong start to the year comes despite not enough money having been invested into the team, with Vowles having revealed that Williams have been financially battling to stay in the sport for a number of years.

“Was enough money invested to keep up?” Vowles told Auto Motor und Sport. “The answer is no.

“When you walk through the factory, you realise that there was a lack of investment. And when that happens, you lose touch with what’s good, what’s great, and what’s not going so well.”

With that in mind, one of Vowles’ first tasks as team principal was to learn not to plan for the future, but instead on “what you have to do tomorrow”.

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“So you’re not concerning yourself with what will happen in 12, 18 or 24 months. You think about what you have to do tomorrow to get through the day,” Vowles added.

Switching from the German giants that are Mercedes, to Williams, has certainly opened Vowles’ eyes up, given that the Silver Arrows are regarded as one of the best when it comes to their factory and their equipment.

Williams on the other hand, continue to struggle with the basics, something Vowles has had to catch up with.

“We had no working ERP (enterprise resource planning) software,” he revealed. “But you need it to track where certain parts are. None of that existed at Williams.”

An easy way for Vowles to get Williams up to speed would’ve been to have taken staff from Mercedes with him to Grove; however, this was contractually banned.

Despite this, Vowles remains in contact with “very intelligent people” from other companies, meaning the future could be very bright for the historic side.

“That’s right,” Vowles confirmed. “But that’s not just the case between Mercedes and me – anyone who leaves a team cannot simply take people with them.

“In my particular circumstances, I know some very intelligent people from other organisations that I’m in touch with.”

Williams’ biggest issue currently, though, is money, with the cost cap not giving the team a realistic chance to catch the frontrunners.

Whilst every team can spend the same amount, some gaps remain from before the budget cap era, with the slower teams realistically needing to spend more than the likes of Red Bull in a bid to close the gap somewhat.

As a result, Williams have to consider sacrificing next season in a bid to spend two years working towards 2025, given the current financial regulations in the sport.

Vowles has spoken to the FIA about letting the smaller teams spend more so that they can have just as good infrastructure as the frontrunners, with any hope of a close field resting on the FIA making changes to the current budget cup rules.

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“I’d rather throw away this year to have a good foundation for next year. And I’d rather sacrifice 2024 to have even better bases for 2025,” said Vowles.

“If we just throw ourselves into the now, that’s where we’ll stay. But I don’t want to be seventh, eighth or ninth with this team.

“Achieving this requires radical and significant decisions, which we are doing.”