Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles, the man who calls the shots on race day for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, is heading east again this winter to put his driving skills to the task in the 2023 Asian Le Mans Series.
Vowles made his debut earlier this year in the four-race series that is run entirely in the Middle-East on consecutive weekends in February at the Dubai Autodrome and at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi.
And the British engineer is up for another few stints in the series after the new year holidays, hopefully adding this month’s Gulf 12 Hours to his schedule although he has yet to choose his preferred team/GT3 car package.
Little has been written about Vowles’ racing ambitions. That's because, as a prominent member of Mercedes’ force in F1 the Briton has always sought to keep a low profile for fear of running out of road and talent while out on track and attracting attention to himself for the wrong reasons.
"I kept it quiet because in truth I didn't know if I would be good enough," he told Motorsport.com while testing a Lamborghini GT3 car with Iron Lynx at Paul Ricard this week.
"The Asian Le Mans series is literally the best of pretty much every manufacturer that turns up. Then there's me!
"So what I didn't want to do is do a tremendous amount of promotion for it, because you could just embarrass yourself. Now, as it turns out, and to quote Toto: I wasn't shit..."
Vowles admitted that his racing endeavors provide him with an entirely different set of emotions and tremors compared to the sensations he gets from guiding Hamilton and Russell to the checkered flag on Sundays.
Proving to himself and to his team that he can get the job done on every lap is also an essential priority that no longer exists in his day job with Mercedes.
"You worry, and you wonder, if you've lost your ability to drive a racing car," he said. "And I know, as odd as that sounds, I don't have this ever at work.
"If you ask me how to do my job within the world of Mercedes, I've done it for 20 years, I've never lost my confidence.
"But if you ask me, am I still able to drive a GT3 car fast? If I was to answer in truth, you really do wonder if you've lost the ability to do it. I've spoken to a few drivers and it turns out this is a very common theme between them.
"So you have to go out and actually prove to yourself that you're not a complete buffoon in order to get your confidence back.
"And it's even more exaggerated when racing. When you're on a grid, in the case of Asian Le Mans with about 40 cars, and you're lining up somewhere in a period of time where I was mid-grid at the time, I truthfully wondered before that race for the first time: am I doing the right thing? Have I made a huge, huge terrible error?
"But I'm glad I did it, because it pushes you to a completely different region you've never been to before."