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James Vowles

Vowles names 'biggest regret' while at Mercedes

The former Mercedes Chief Strategist details his biggest regret while at the team and discusses the character traits behind a seven-time World Champion.

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James Vowles has named his "biggest regret" during his time at Mercedes prior to becoming Formula 1's newest Team Principal at Williams.

After joining the team in 2001 when it was BAR Racing, he stayed with the outfit through its difficult periods with Honda and title-winning year with Brawn GP before it was sold to Mercedes.

Vowles was one of the key figures behind Mercedes success from 2014 to 2021, but before that they struggled to mount any title challenge between 2010 and 2013.

Seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher drove for the team before he retired for a second and final time, being replaced by Lewis Hamilton in 2013.

Vowles reflects on one of his regrets during that period when speaking to the High Performance podcast: "There is very few characteristics that make a World Champion. Michael, he taught Nico how to work really hard.

"Michael wasn't the most skilful in the car, that was Lewis, but he knew how to extract every millisecond out of himself, and every millisecond out of the team."

"He was a leader that if he said 'I'm going to go this way' the team would follow him there. So much so, that both sides of the garage wanted him to do well. One of my regrets of my career is that we didn't get a win for him, that still hurts me today. He deserved a win."

Vowles: Michael was different behind the scenes

Schumacher came close to victory when he qualified on pole for the Monaco Grand Prix in 2012, only for him to receive a grid penalty for a collision with Bruno Senna at the previous round in Barcelona.

A 155th and final podium would ultimately come his way at the European Grand Prix in Valencia that year, when he finished third behind eventual winner Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.

Despite the lack of success, Vowles reflects fondly on the period he worked with the German: "I went motorbike riding with him on tracks. We went to Paul Ricard and had the time of our lives, we both still laughed about it many years after that.

"He knew my partners birthday and sent her flowers, it aroused me because I didn't do that much. But he took a genuine interest in who you are, who your family is, and what drives you. And that's hard to do. Not because he's doing it because he wants to gain an advantage, he's doing it because he cares.

"The Michael you saw in the media was very different to the Michael behind the scenes and that's how he did it. He would bring everyone on the journey, he would work as late as he needed to, every hour he needed to, that was how he operated.

"Nico learned a tremendous amount from him, and it formed the Nico that ultimately won the World Championship. Which is squeeze everything out that you can, at the cost of everything else."

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