Toto Wolff reflects on his future at Mercedes

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team Steve Etherington.

There has been, and continues to be much speculation over the future of Mercedes-AMG F1 team principle Toto Wolff, who is perhaps infamously out of contract at the end of the 2020 season.

Toto has confirmed that he is in talks with Mercedes’ parent company, Daimler, however it doesn’t appear that any formal decision has been made as yet.

Unfortunately, the fact that the decision hasn’t been made so quickly, given Mercedes’ sheer domination with Wolff at the helm has, inevitably, set tongues waggling through the paddock and the wider F1 community.

But is this speculation valid?

There’s absolutely no denying that, under Wolff’s management, Mercedes have gone from being a team filling up the middle/back positions on the grid (circa 2011/2012, while Schumacher still had a drive), to hoovering up championship after championship for 6 years running. Other teams’ inability to match Mercedes’ pace has inspired regulation changes, and has even endangered viewing figures as fans protest the sport has become too ‘predictable’ as a result.

For Toto, it seems the team’s success is one of the reasons behind him carefully considering his future at Mercedes. Speaking before the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, he admitted he was ‘in a moment of reflection where F1 is heading to’. Wolff continued, ‘I really enjoy the role and my plan is to continue but I never want to be in a situation where you are becoming from very good to good.’

It’s an interesting approach from Toto who, you would imagine given the vast success, would be quite happy to sign up for another few years. It is also interesting that Wolff’s decision to take time and reflect comes as we turn our attention to the Renault garage, who have famously signed Fernando Alonso for two more championship seasons.

You’re probably wondering how Alonso could have anything to do with Wolff’s decision to stay at Mercedes. The truth is it doesn’t, however, as there has been speculation about Toto’s future, there has been far more (for far longer) about whether Alonso should return to F1 or concentrate on other projects.

One could argue that it shows considerable level-headedness (essential for the role of team-principle, you’d imagine), and an absence of narcissism, to be aware that your track record doesn’t necessarily guarantee the same success going forward, and that it might even be a hindrance to those waiting in the wings to be given their opportunity to progress.

Depending on which side of the argument you’re on, it seems like Wolff is removing pride from the equation, something that doesn’t seem to have happened when Alonso signed with Renault. (Poor Hülkenberg!)

This is, of course, the first opportunity for Wolff to really consider his future in the team after the sad loss of his fellow team boss, Niki Lauda, whose absence is felt not just in the Mercedes garage, but in F1 as a whole.

Like Niki, Toto is quite the entrepreneur, with a keen eye for driver talent (he famously manages Esteban Ocon, who some of us expected would be filling Bottas’s seat last year), as well as having small stakes in Aston Martin and as of June this year, Williams F1. Perhaps he could give Dr Helmut Marko a run for his money, and turn his attention to making further investments, and manage new drivers coming up through the formulas.

Personally, I find this unlikely, however I would like to see Wolff move to another team, or even another formula that needs a little bit of development. An advisor for Williams F1 maybe? Or, working with the Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E team, and boosting its profile even further.

Whatever he decides, I’m certain the Wolff name will remain an enormous part of F1, and if all else fails, I’m sure Sky Sports F1 will be waiting in the wings with a decent contract for him, just in case.

Toto Wolff: Mercedes not daunted by Ferrari challenge

Ahead of this weekend’s 1000th Grand Prix, due to be held at the Shanghai International Circuit, Toto Wolff has said that his Mercedes team are not daunted by the challenge posed by Ferrari in the first few races of the season. Instead, he believes the opposite is true.

“The challenge we are facing doesn’t daunt us – it’s uplifting,” Wolff said. “We will keep pushing to extract the maximum performance from our package to deliver the best race we can.

“We will try and exert pressure, maximise our opportunities and keep working hard to develop our overall package. We’ve seen exciting races so far this season and we’re looking forward to the next fight in Shanghai.”

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Mercedes have taken two somewhat unexpected wins so far, with Valtteri Bottas claiming victory in Australia and Lewis Hamilton doing likewise in Bahrain.

Many had tipped Ferrari to have the edge over the Silver Arrows based on their form in pre-season testing, but they struggled around the streets of Albert Park, before Charles Leclerc suffered a reliability issue whilst dominating the Bahrain Grand Prix, with Sebastian Vettel spinning from a podium position in a battle with Hamilton.

What that means is that Mercedes hold the lead in both the drivers’ and constructors’  championships, with a 1-2 in both races so far. Despite this, though, Toto Wolff is under no illusions that Mercedes are clearly ahead in terms of performance.

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

“Two races into the 2019 season, it may seem like we’re in a strong position,” he said. “We have 87 points, just one below the maximum score. But the constructors’ standings do not tell the full story.

“The truth is that we aren’t as quick as our direct competitors throughout qualifying and the race in Bahrain. The Ferrari was considerably faster on the straights and this added up to several tenths around one lap.

“Nevertheless, the saying goes that ‘in order to finish first, first you have to finish’ and the combination of solid performances from the team, reliability of our systems and a strong drive from our drivers secured us the one-two.”

 

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]

Mercedes reveal W10 ahead of Silverstone shakedown

Reigning world champions Mercedes have released images of their 2019 title contender online, ahead of a shakedown test at Silverstone later today.

The W10  largely sticks with Mercedes’ signature silver, black and turquoise colour scheme but has added a mesh-like gradient pattern of three-pointed stars to the engine cover, and a silver halo as opposed to last year’s black.

F1 W10 EQ Power+ Shakedown, Silverstone

Like the designs of its rivals, it features a simpler front wing design as mandated by the 2019 regulations, along with a larger rear wing and mirrors positioned further out on the bodywork to compensate for any reduced visibility. Mercedes Technical Director James Allison has also spoken of emphasis being placed on the suspension system and on the aerodynamics, in an attempt to make the W10 kind on its tyres.

Mercedes have utterly dominated the hybrid era in F1, taking a clean sweep of drivers’ and constructors’ championships every year since 2014. The last couple of seasons, however, have seen Ferrari begin to challenge the Silver Arrows on track, even if internal struggles and various mistakes have meant that they have fallen short of that challenge being sustained across an entire year.

Mercedes’ line-up remains unchanged from last year. Lewis Hamilton will be aiming to become just the second-ever driver to claim six world championships, while Valtteri Bottas enters his third season with the team and will be hoping for a more consistent performance than the one he gave in 2018.

F1 W10 EQ Power+ Shakedown, Silverstone

Speaking of the upcoming 2019 season, team principal Toto Wolff said, “The 2019 season will be a new challenge for all of us. The regulations have changed quite substantially. We have to start from scratch, we need to prove ourselves again – against our own expectations and against our competitors.

“We start the season with zero points, so we’re taking nothing for granted and there’s absolutely no feeling of entitlement
to be at the front. In fact, with the regulation change for the new season, every team can have a shot at the title and we’re seeing all of them as a potential threat.”

The W10 will be seen for the first time on track at Silverstone as part of a shakedown test, driven by Bottas in the morning and then Hamilton in the afternoon.

 

[Featured image: F1 W10 EQ Power+ Shakedown, Silverstone]

Wehrlein to leave Mercedes after 2018

Mercedes-Benz has announced that it will part ways with Pascal Wehrlein at the end of the 2018 season.

The decision, which has been described by both parties as mutual, brings to an end a six-year partnership that included a record-breaking run in the DTM and Wehrlein’s Formula One debut with the Mercedes-engined Manor team.

Mercedes AMG

Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff said: “Our junior programme has always been about supporting young talent and finding opportunities that are in the best interests of the drivers’ careers.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t offer Pascal a competitive drive for next year. In his best interests, we have therefore decided together with Pascal not to extend our agreement and to give him the best chance of securing an opportunity elsewhere that his talent merits.”

Wehrlein added: “I am very grateful for all the support Mercedes has offered me. Now it’s time to take the next step. I am looking for new challenges and opportunities and am currently talking to other teams about a cockpit for next season.”

Foto Studio Colombo / Pirelli Media

Wehrlein’s break came in 2014 when he became the DTM’s youngest ever race winner and was appointed third driver for the Mercedes F1 team. The following year he became the youngest ever DTM champion.

Wehrlein made his F1 debut in 2016 with Manor and scored his first championship point in Austria. The following year he moved to Sauber and took a further two points finishes, in Spain and Azerbaijan, but lost his seat for this year to Charles Leclerc following Sauber’s renewed Ferrari partnership.

Toto Wolff has been quoted recently as saying that Mercedes would be prepared to let its junior drivers go if doing so would help their careers, following his struggle to find Wehrlein’s former stablemate Esteban Ocon an F1 seat next year.

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

Toto Wolff calls German Grand Prix podium “the perfect scene” after Mercedes’ 1-2

Toto Wolff has hailed Mercedes’ unexpected 1-2 finish at the German Grand Prix as the “perfect scene”.

The German marque’s duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton had started the race in P2 and P14 respectively, after the Brit suffered a hydraulic failure in qualifying. Bottas held position at the start but for the most part could only sit back and watch Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel begin to open up the gap, whilst Hamilton set about carving through the field. Both drivers had longer first stints than those around them – Bottas changed from the ultras to the softs on lap twenty-eight, and Hamilton swapped from softs to ultras on lap forty-two after having broken into the top five.

2018 Großer Preis von Deutschland, Sonntag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

It was after Hamilton’s pitstop that the rain began to fall. It had been a looming threat hanging over the race, and it was only a matter of when, not if, it would arrive. Despite it turning out to be only a brief shower, many in the midfield made the decision to pit for intermediates.

On lap fifty-two, championship leader Sebastian Vettel crashed in the damp conditions and brought out the safety car, with Bottas and Vettel’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen choosing to pit for fresh ultrasoft tyres. Hamilton, though, stayed out and thus inherited the lead.

When the race restarted, Hamilton began to pull away – although he was helped by Mercedes telling Bottas to hold position despite the Finn being on the fresher tyre – and eventually crossed the line to win the German Grand Prix and reclaim the lead of the drivers’ championship. With Bottas in P2, Mercedes also re-took the lead of the constructors’ championship from Ferrari.

2018 Großer Preis von Deutschland, Sonntag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Hamilton’s win was briefly under threat when he was summoned to the stewards post-race to explain why he cut across the pitlane entry line when under the safety car, but he was eventually let off with a reprimand and was not given a penalty.

“What an incredible race – here at Hockenheim, on home turf for Mercedes, and a one-two finish after all the bad luck we have had in recent races,” Toto Wolff said. “Today it felt like that turned into good fortune for us and it was the perfect scene on the podium with our two drivers and Dr Zetsche up there. Like always, the race happens on Sunday not Saturday, and sometimes it’s not the quickest car that wins; that was what happened today.”

Wolff also extended his sympathies to Ferrari regarding the news that Fiat Chrysler’s CEO Sergio Marchionne was replaced due to worsening health after a recent operation. “But even in the joy of victory, our thoughts also remain with Sergio Marchionne and his family; although we are rivals on the track, we are friends off it and we were saddened to hear the news of his illness.

“It’s hard to sum up a Grand Prix like this one in a few sentences but things were unfolding in an interesting way when the rain came.

“After the drama of Silverstone and then qualifying yesterday, this is a dream result and that unpredictability is the beauty of sport. But our focus will turn quickly to Hungary, where we will have to do it all over again next weekend.”

 

 

Featured image – 2018 Großer Preis von Deutschland, Sonntag – Steve Etherington

Toto Wolff: Mercedes “hungry” and “ambitious” ahead of German Grand Prix

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff has said that the team are “hungry [and] ambitious” ahead of their home event at this weekend’s German Grand Prix.

It has been a strange series of races for the Silver Arrows, something Wolff admits. “We didn’t score as many points in the triple-header as we had hoped for,” he said. “A lot of that was down to our own mistakes. However, there is a silver lining to this – while we didn’t maximise on points, we did bring the quickest car to all three races.

“Hockenheim will mark the halfway point of the 2018 season. We’ve had a decent first half – on the one hand, we’ve left points on the table and had to do damage limitation more often than we would have wanted. On the other hand, we still scored a good amount of points, both drivers have shown strong performances and we have a fast car.

“So, there are many reasons why we’re looking forward to the second half of the 2018 season; we’re hungry, ambitious and want to kick on from there.”

Steve Etherington/Mercedes AMG

At the French Grand Prix, the first race of the triple-header, Lewis Hamilton romped to victory while Valtteri Bottas was spun at the start by Sebastian Vettel, suffering a left-rear puncture in the process that dropped him way down the order. He eventually recovered to seventh. A week later in Austria, both Bottas and Hamilton retired from the race in what is believed to be Mercedes’ first double mechanical retirement in F1 since the 1950s. Then, another week after that, Silverstone and the British Grand Prix saw an inversion of the Paul Ricard incident. This time, it was the other Mercedes of Hamilton that was pitched into a spin on the first lap by the other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. Bottas would finish P4, while Hamilton recovered to finish P2.

Speaking of the looming German Grand Prix, Wolff added, “Going to Hockenheim always feels like coming home. It’s only about a 90-minute drive from the Daimler headquarters in Stuttgart.

“While we had the great opportunity to race in front of many of our colleagues from Brackley and Brixworth in Silverstone, we’re now looking forward to welcoming the German members of the Mercedes family to the circuit and to holding high the three-pointed star on home turf.

“The track itself is quite interesting; it has a variety of corner speeds and will test every aspect of the car.

“We will fight hard to not only put on a good show for our friends and fans in Hockenheim, but also get the result that they will be hoping for.”

Going into the race, Hamilton and Bottas are P2 and P5 in the WDC respectively, with the former eight points behind leader Sebastian Vettel. In the constructors’ championship, Mercedes are twenty points behind Ferrari, with the prospect of their home race making them keener than ever to make up ground.

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Steve Etherington / Mercedes AMG F1.