Williams’ new principal James Vowles said after his appointment on Friday that the struggling former champions would be no Mercedes ‘B’ team in Formula One.
Vowles will join next month from Mercedes, where he was head of strategy and part of Toto Wolff’s top management at a team that won a record eight constructors’ titles in a row, as replacement for departed boss Jost Capito.
Vowles and Wolff held a joint briefing after the announcement, speaking of their friendship and mutual appreciation while playing down how closely they might work together.
“There’s no mini-Mercedes or B team or any of that,” Vowles said. “This is about me standing on my own two legs and making success with an organisation around me.”
Wolff is a co-owner of the Mercedes team and his influence on the sport is considerable, with the German carmaker’s engines powering four of the 10 teams including Williams, which also uses Mercedes gearboxes.
Mercedes also placed British driver George Russell at Williams for three years to learn the ropes before bringing him back on board as teammate to seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Mario Andretti, the 1978 world champion whose son Michael has met resistance in his bid to enter a U.S.-based team, suggested last year that questions should be asked about whether Wolff was too powerful.
Vowles told reporters that Williams were entirely independent and he would act in their best interests.
“The second that you put a crisp, Williams shirt on, that’s where you are, that’s where your loyalty is and that’s where my success and the team success will come from,” he said, ruling out any ‘double agent’ role.
Wolff said it would be a short conversation if he tried to weigh in.
“If I were ever to get involved with James and ask him to become mini-Mercedes, he would tell me to get lost,” the Austrian said.
“There was always the speculation that Williams, because of the Mercedes engine, was a subordinate but none of that was obviously true.”
“We never interfered into some kind of driver situation. We always understood the authority of the team management in their own way. That’s why James is going to do what’s good for the team, what’s good for James in order to bring that forward.
“He’s going to be judged on the team’s success, and if Mercedes is helpful, then he will talk about it and if he feels he needs to have a different position then he will stand for that position.”