Q&A with Toto Wolff
Team Principal and CEO of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team
Question: A brand-new era of Formula One, how excited are you to be leading this team into unchartered territory?
Toto Wolff: A year with an almost seismic change of technical regulations is exciting for all of us and soon we will see if we have done a good enough job. You can only rely on your own skills, on your organisation, on your ethos and your values. It will be interesting to see whether we missed out on some innovation or whether we have been the ones who lead the charge in terms of performance. Whichever is the case, our success will be defined by how we adapt to the situation and develop our understanding of the car throughout the season. 2022 is a year full of opportunities and risks; it’s two sides of the same high-stakes coin, which is why we love sport so much.
Question: 2022 sees the biggest technical regulation shakeup in a generation, maybe in the history of F1. How have the men and women in the team responded?
Toto Wolff: Ever since work on W13 began, I have seen an excited enthusiasm in our team members like never before, thanks to the scale of opportunity these technical regulations provide. Towards the end of the year, when the car build project truly came together, I felt a deep passion across the whole organisation, not only in the technical arena but across our bases at Brackley and Brixworth who were embracing a mindset of ’we can do this’.
Question: There aren’t many teams who have remained dominant over different rule changes and eras of regulations. Is that a big motivation for the team?
Toto Wolff: We did pretty well during the last big regulatory change into the hybrid era and performed well when we went from the narrow to the wide cars in 2017. While we have a good track record, my message is clear: we can’t rely on past success for this year’s performance, but we can rely on our people, our culture, our structure, and our mindset to do the best possible job for 2022.
Question: The team continued to make history with last year’s eighth consecutive Constructors’ Championship, how do you reflect on that achievement now?
Toto Wolff: I think one day when we step off the hamster wheel we will look back and reflect on the records and see where this positions us in the ranking of great sports teams. As far as I know, no sports team in the world has won eight consecutive World Championships but we keep striving. We are humble about the past and feel no sense of entitlement for the future - that is the strength of our team and our culture. There’s always a new challenge to tackle and new records to be broken.
Question: George joins Lewis this season for a new driver pairing. How exciting is that? What are the strengths of that partnership?
Toto Wolff: Lewis is the best driver in the world, and he is joined by one of the brightest and most promising talents of their generation in George. I have no doubt that we can create an environment of partnership between the two, of productivity to develop this new car which will be essential, whilst maintaining a healthy competition that will motivate them and the wider team.
Question: How hungry and focused is Lewis for the upcoming season?
Toto Wolff: I have never seen him more determined. He’s had a great break, and he looks calm and ready.
Question: How has George settled into the team?
Toto Wolff: George is just getting on with the job. I know he’s had a good winter of training and we’ve seen him in the factory, working on the simulator and with his engineers. This team has always been his home and therefore the transition to driving for us has been very smooth.
Question: The W13 marks a switch back to the team’s famous silver livery. Could you explain the reason for shifting back to the silver?
Toto Wolff: The black livery was a clear intent and a clear demonstration of our mission to become a more diverse and inclusive team. It has become part of our DNA, but the silver colour of the Silver Arrows is as much our DNA, it’s our history. As a team we have grown from the Silver Arrows to slowly becoming a more diverse and inclusive team and therefore our colours going forward will be silver and black.
Increasing the diversity of our team isn’t about meeting a quota, it’s about recruiting the very best people regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation. Our work inspiring people who might otherwise think a career in engineering, technology or motorsport isn’t for them will widen the talent pool we have available. A diverse workforce drives performance.
Question: The 2022 car has been a long time in the making. What will your emotions be when you see that car on track for the first time?
Toto Wolff: I have seen the car in the wind tunnel and I love the look of it. We will execute a very precise testing programme throughout Barcelona and especially Bahrain pre-season testing, in more relevant conditions. I’m excited to see the car running at Silverstone for the first time later today but the real day that excites me is Sunday in Bahrain, March 20th, starting the first race of this new era.
Question: Last year’s season was action-packed, viewing figures are up, there seems to be a huge buzz for the new season, what do you put that down to?
Toto Wolff: Many factors have contributed to the sport thriving, but the most important pillar is the exciting racing on track. Last season, we provided our fans with a great battle at the front that went down to the wire, and we have tapped new audiences. Seeing that the strongest growing audience is the 15–35 age bracket whilst still entertaining the hardcore fans is fantastic and we are conquering interest in new markets, particularly the US, which has contributed to the strong growth in interest in F1 around the world.
We have the perfect combination of strong personalities, tough racing, thrilling competition played out on almost every continent, glory and drama, and that’s what makes Formula One the only sport that is truly global. Netflix has been a huge positive and helped us find new audiences, and the teams’ outstanding collective social media efforts have created exponential growth in our digital fanbase.
With the introduction of the cost cap, we have not only balanced the performance of the field, which we will see panning out over the coming years, but we have created profitable sports franchises and stopped the spending war which we have seen since the creation of Formula One many years ago.
Question: What are the team’s objectives for this season?
Toto Wolff: The objective is to stay humble, remain determined and perform to the best of our abilities. It will be another intense season and it’s important we look after the wellbeing of our team members so we are in the best possible shape to sustain our challenge for 2022.
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