The Williams Formula 1 team last won a championship way back in 1997 and it took its last race win in 2012 when Pastor Maldonado took the checkered flag in a shocking Spanish Grand Prix. Since then, Williams has been stuck at the back of the pack fighting for Q2 appearances and points whenever it can get them. Now, ex-F1 racer Jenson Button believes the team is poised for a comeback.

Button, who claimed the 2009 world championship with Brawn GP and raced for Williams during his debut F1 season in 2000 told Jalopnik that the team is in a much better place now that it has been in recent years.

With drivers Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant at the wheel, and new team principal James Vowles running things, he says the squad is rapidly running out of “excuses” as to why it isn’t back to winning ways in F1.

A photo of Jenson Button spraying Champagne on the podium.

Jenson Button won his F1 title in 2009.
Photo: Paul Gilham (Getty Images)

“I think under new leadership it’s in a great place, it really is,” Button told Jalopnik when we caught up over Zoom. “It’s still growing, it takes time. But they have great drivers, they have a good team. And, yeah, it’s in a good place Williams, right now.”

When Button drove for the team more than 20 years ago, it was owned by the Williams family and headed up by the late Sir Frank Williams, who founded the outfit back in 1977. Despite becoming one of the most successful teams in F1 history, the squad began floundering when F1 made the switch to hybrid power, finishing bottom of the pack in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

During those tough years, the Williams family sold the squad and new leadership was brought in. Now, it’s led by ex-Mercedes strategy director James Vowles, who has spent the last year attempting to turn the team around.

A photo of a 2024 Williams F1 car on track.

Slowly but surely, Williams is making progress.
Photo: Mark Thompson (Getty Images)

“Initially with James Vowles as the new big boss in the team, I wasn’t sure that it was the right decision,” says Button. “I worked with James when he was a data engineer, and I just remember him as a kid. But, wow, he’s come a long way.”

In the decade since Button worked with Vowles at BAR in 2003, the British engineer learned at the Toto Wolff school of management at Mercedes. This, Button believes, has turned him into “one of the best team principal in the pit lane.”

With Vowles in charge, there’s now “a lot of life in the team,” according to Button, and he adds that “under his leadership, there’s no excuses now.”

A photo of Williams team boss James Vowles

James Vowles has ‘no excuses’ says Button.
Photo: Bryn Lennon (Getty Images)

“There’s no reason why Williams can’t be fighting at the front in the future,” says Button. “It is a matter of time. Things don’t happen overnight, but the important thing is that everyone is behind it.”

Now, progress is being made at the UK-based squad. From 2022 to 2023, Williams made the jump from last with eight points up to seventh with 28 points to its name. So far this year the F1 pack seems much closer, but the team is showing promise – if you can see past all the expensive crashes.

In an attempt to see how its current form stacks up against some of its most successful seasons, Williams has partnered with America brewer Michelob Ultra to create ‘Lap Of Legends,’ a TV special that pits historic Williams drivers and their cars against current F1 machinery.

A photo of Jenson Button driving his 2000 Williams F1 car.

‘Lap Of Legends’ pits 2000s Jenson Button against 2023 Logan Sargeant
Photo: Mark Thompson /Allsport (Getty Images)

In the special, which is set to air on May 14, Button will be joined by fellow ex-Williams racers such as Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell to race against Logan Sargeant and his 2023 Williams F1 car in a high-tech race that pits historic racers in the digital world against a real-world F1 racer.

“It’s the first time it’s been done,” says Button. “I still don’t know how they’ve done it, fair play for Michelob Ultra for making this happen, but it shows how technology has come on.”

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