James Vowles’ departure to Williams was ‘a real surprise’ for Toto Wolff: PlanetF1

Toto Wolff didn’t expect James Vowles to resign but says being a team boss has always been a “goal” for the former Mercedes chief strategist.

Last season Mattia Binotto kicked off a series of dumb seasonal F1 team management moves, the Italian resigned.

Shortly after Williams announced CEO Jost Capito was out, while McLaren revealed Andreas Seidl would go to Sauber to replace Ferrari-linked Fred Vasseur.

The only question left to answer was who would replace Capito at Williams. That turned out to be Vowles.

Williams announced in mid-January that Mercedes’ chief strategist would take over the reins on February 20, Vowles ending his career at Brackley which began at his BAR/Honda days.

Wolff did not expect this.

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“It was a real surprise,” the Mercedes motorsport boss admitted to Speedweek.com.

“But,” he continued, “he is one who has always had this goal in mind, and with us such an ascent is currently blocked by me.”

Wolff had no problem releasing Vowles from his contract, adamant it would not stop him from following his dream as it is a move that will benefit Williams and Formula 1 as a whole.

“James is a very intelligent and rational player, so we have left him out of the contract,” he said. “It’s good for Formula 1 as a whole if a man like that makes decisions at Williams in the future.”

Wolff has already spoken out about the departure of Vowles, the team boss acknowledging the huge loss it will be for both him and the Mercedes team.

“From a personal point of view, obviously we will miss James. I’ve worked closely with him for many, many, many years,” she told The Race.

“The two of us, plus others, but especially the two of us, were strong allies and strong sparring partners when making tough decisions in competition. And we almost never disagree.

“This is definitely a loss from a personal perspective and from a professional perspective of him as a chief strategist.”

But, he added of the Briton, “it’s bigger than a chief strategist.”

Mercedes have no plans to directly replace Vowles with Wolff, revealing the team will instead rely on its existing strategist group to carry the load.

After all, they’ve been doing it for six months already.

“We have an extremely talented team of strategists,” said the Austrian. “We have nine people, some very senior, who are not always on the front lines, others who have grown up within the organisation.

“They’ve been flying the plane themselves for the past six months, and before that only under James’ supervision.”

Wolff added: “I am very comfortable with the structure going forward. And it’s not that a great weakness has suddenly arisen».

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