Lewis Hamilton’s move surprised everyone, though for a few in the paddock they aren’t surprised that it happened, they’re surprised about the timing. That’s the case with Williams team principal and former strategy boss at Mercedes, James Vowles, who has also ruled out the possibility of Alex Albon moving to Mercedes in 2025.
Speculation has been rife over who will replace Hamilton at Mercedes with Alex Albon considered one of the front runners. However, Vowles insists that Albon’s contract doesn’t allow for that.
“Alex is signed at Williams until the end of 2025,” he told the media. “That’s signed. It’s not something I’ve been very public about, because I don’t feel the need to. So any reports that you’re seeing – and there’s on in particular – that individual is speculating at best.
“As I’ve also said publicly, it is our job at Williams to create an environment that deserves someone of the calibre of Alex. Simple as that. I’ve said that from the beginning and I still maintain that. He is an incredible driver who deserves his place towards the front.
“He did drives last year that I’ve already commented are no different to some of the other champions I’ve worked with. He kept half the field behind in one race and we put him in difficult positions and he overcame that to score points.”
When asked if he would stand in Alex’s way to make the move, he said that his interests are aligned with Williams and so would do what was best for the team.
“He and I have good chats about where we want to move forward and we want to have our journey together in this team for a long time,” Vowles said. “We have to earn that right. It’s not given, by any stretch of imagination, nor should it be, for that matter.
“It’s back to the original question, we have to demonstrate to the world that we’re not the Williams of old, we’re not moving backwards, we’re moving forward continuously. Hopefully that provides clarity.
“For the situation with Alex, would I stand in his way? I have the responsibility of Williams on my shoulder – that’s the most important thing to me. It’s not the responsibility towards one individual – in this case, Alex – this responsibility is towards the team. So should any decision go that way, it’s because I’m very clear in my mind that I’ve made decisions that are correct for the team’s long-term goals.”
While on the topic of the empty Mercedes seat, Vowles told the media that he was surprised about the timing of Hamilton’s move but “his want and desire to be in Ferrari at some point in his career? No.”
“I think most world champions have either been there or have a desire to be there, because it’s a force of nature,” he said. “It is still the most successful team in Formula 1 – Williams is the second-most successful team in Formula 1 – and that can’t be ignored. It’s the hardest thing you do, for every human in the world, to move from where you’re comfortable to where you’re not challenges you and pushes you to the limit – and that’s Lewis all over.
“So the fact he’s doing it, I actually think it’s good for the sport. It’ll be good for Lewis, because he’ll learn from it and he’ll challenge himself.”
He ultimately thinks this move will be bad for Mercedes in the short-term, but “ultimately it’s a good thing all round in time.”