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Williams particularly ambitious: 'Competing for victory in two years'

Williams particularly ambitious: 'Competing for victory in two years'

29-11-2023 13:00

Williams struck a big blow with the arrival of Pat Fry. The new Chief Technical Officer is the first big name to come in under James Vowles' leadership, and the winner's mentality is splashing out: Williams needs to get back to the top.

For over three years, Fry was at the helm of Alpine as CTO. At his childhood sweethearts, where Fry began his F1 career in the Benetton era, he hoped to start the road to the top. That dream did not come true, according to Fry, mainly due to a lack of ambition at the top of Alpine. At Williams, that ambition is there, so Fry is aiming high.

"The thing that excites me about this opportunity is that the board is fully on board with what it's going to take to move this place forward. They're willing to invest in what it takes to support us in building a team. It's a nice thing to rebuild an old British icon," Fry told a select media group, including GPblog, in Abu Dhabi.

New direction at Williams

The fact that Fry is aligned with Williams team boss James Vowles is already clear from the following statement: "There's four things that make a team. It's the people, it's the tools, it's the methodologies but most important is the team spirit. How we go about doing that and creating that culture where you've got to take risks, you've got to be brave, you've got to be courageous, but we've all got to be working together. We will make mistakes. Everyone will when you're pushing as hard as you need to be to get to the front. We all need to be supporting each other." 

A 'no blame culture', as Vowles described earlier. Fry works in a similar way. The bar is high, but people within the team need to feel the confidence to take risks. So does a technical director yet to be appointed. The man to become Fry's right-hand man has not yet been announced, but as Fry's former colleague at McLaren and Vowles' colleague at Mercedes, Mike Elliott, who left Mercedes earlier this year, seems an interesting candidate.

Fry does not yet say names in the press briefing, even stating that he has not been concerned with appointing new people at all. First, he has looked at where the team is and what is needed in five years. "I have to look at what technology we need in five years' time. I've already been having those conversations with the various managers of departments to get a good idea of where we are and where we need to get to." 

Williams wants to become world champion again

Fry has been appointed for the long-term vision. Formula 1 is a sport for the long haul. You have to mould the people, the resources, and the culture to your liking to see results eventually. For Williams, it is mainly about resources. Vowles previously stated that the infrastructure at Grove is sometimes as much as 20 years outdated compared to the competition. It is now up to Fry to map out what is needed to be competitive again in five years.

Because there is no doubt that Williams want to compete at the top. It may sound crazy for a team that has recently been at the bottom of the rankings and celebrated their last world title in 1997, but with the right leadership, it is certainly possible, Fry argues.

"The ultimate goal is to be a championship competitor. In two, three, four years, we need to be getting in the fight and breaking into the top three. That's a tough ask when you're building from where we are, but I think it's all possible," Fry replied to a question from GPblog.

In doing so, Fry shows that he still has the mentality he inherited from Ron Dennis at McLaren: 'Second are the first of the losers'. "Having worked with Ron (Dennis) and having worked at Ferrari where you celebrate winning but nothing else, I'm kind of tainted in that way. We need to build this place back to being a winning team."

Williams has filled two key positions with Vowles as team boss and Fry as CTO. Under Vowles' leadership, the team already climbed the rankings from last to seventh this year.