Vowles reveals how he managed driver conflict at Mercedes

Race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates on the podium with James Vowles (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Chief Strategist. 04.08.2019. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com - copy of publication required for printed pictures. Every used picture is fee-liable. © Copyright: Photo4 / XPB Images
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James Vowles might be busy with his new role as team principal of Williams F1, but he's left a significant legacy behind him from his years as Mercedes' motorsport strategy director.

One of the most significant piece of work he did behind the scenes at Brackley was the creation of a 'rules of engagement' document to address how the squad wants its drivers to work together for the benefit of the whole team.

It came after a cruising period for the Silver Arrows during which war between Lewis Hamilton and his then-team mate Nico Rosberg spilled into the open at the height of their dominance over rival teams.

The pair collided on the opening lap of the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, forcing both drivers to retire from the race. Rosberg went on to win the title that year before abruptly retiring from F1.

"Everyone will remember 2016 in Barcelona," Vowles said. "It still sticks in my mind today, because you're taking two of these sportsman who are just constrained in their boxes and got frustrated.

"Nico and Lewis knew it was going to be one of those two winning the year. They knew before we turned the first wheel at the first race," Vowles said, adding that this had been the case from 2014.

"I struggle to find another sport similar to this where it's a team sport, but it starts by beating your teammate. If you don't beat your teammate, you're in trouble - but that's just one fight.

The key behind it is how everyone contributes to this success," he continued. "So I constructed a document which created some very clear 'How we are going to work with each other, how we will fight each other'."

"At the time it was called 'Rules of Engagement', but it was changed to something less military further down the line. The whole first page was about being a sportsman," he said.

Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid in parc ferme with team mate Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid. 14.05.2016. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona, Spain, Qualifying Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com - copy of publication required for printed pictures. Every used picture is fee-liable. © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

Vowles said that the document presented a discussion about "[How] you can win a world championship but if you've done something unsportsmanlike, you will regret it for the rest of your life. It will be sullied, it won't be pure.

"Within these rules, the fastest driver over 20 races will win and we'll give you each equal opportunities, and they bought into it.

"We wanted to win things by doing things better than everyone else," he added. The controversial way that Michael Schumacher was disqualified in 1997 for attempting to force title rival Jacques Villeneuve to crash in the final race was foremost in Vowles' mind when thinking about the issues involved.

"Michael was an incredible man but he's still marred by 1997," Vowles suggested. "I didn't want to be remembered like that, I wanted to be remembered for being dominant."

Crash betwin Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) Williams FW 19 Renault and Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari 310B during the race - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Photo4 / XPB Images

Vowles got to work with Schumacher when the seven-time world champion came out of retirement to help establish the new Mercedes works team from 2010 to 2013, at which point Hamilton joined the team in his place.

"Lewis was - and still is today - the most naturally talented driver I've worked with, including Michael," was Vowles' verdict on the pair. "His mentality at the time was a brilliant one, it was 'I'm going to win every race at all costs'

"If you speak to him today, he accepts that it's the second places and third places that win championships," Vowles added.

"Working with the team on days that you can't win the race will give you far more of a reward than pushing everyone away to win a single race."

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