One of the rarest opportunities in the Formula 1 universe might be a one-on-one with the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 CEO and Team Principal Toto Wolff. We made it happen as we talked to him in Silverstone before the start of the season: We shared the questions from the AMG Private Lounge forum.
AMG Private Lounge Q&A with Toto Wolff
How tough is it to stay on top over the years?
I believe it’s much tougher to stay on top than to be the underdog. There is a lot of pressure and expectation on you to maintain your winning streak.
What was the most difficult decision you had to make as team principal? How did you come to your decision and whose advice did you seek out when making the decision?
The most difficult decision I had to take as a team principal was to ask for a position swap in Sochi, a few years ago (Editor's note: Valtteri Bottas was asked to forgo victory in the Russian Grand Prix in favor of Lewis Hamilton). That totally goes against my DNA as a race driver. For a long time I felt very bad about it and for the team.
Last year’s race in Bahrain when George Russell took over for Lewis Hamilton, it seemed that George was able to win the race in a very dominant car in terms of performance. Was the W11 the x-factor of success in the 2020 season?
The W11 is certainly one of the best race cars of all time. But it’s always the combination of men and machines that make the difference. We can see in the past how successful our drivers were in the car, but they need to execute in the car well, too. George had a splendid week in Bahrain. He jumped in a car that was not really made for his size and he still had a spectacular performance, nonetheless.
“We really try to push the boundaries further, to set new levels to make sure this team never fails.”
Do you think one team can sustain leadership or does success come in cycles?
There are not many sports teams out there that can call themselves world champions and winning the title, year-in, year-out, is even more difficult. You need to energize and motivate the team every single year and you need to set the right objectives. We really try to push the boundaries further, to set new levels to make sure this team never fails.
What are the goals and ambitions for this new year, the year before we see a massive change in regulations?
The goals and ambitions remain the same every single year. We’re trying to aim for the top spot, to be competitive enough to challenge for race wins and eventually the championship. Although we’re not taking anything for granted. We respect our opponents, and this year, I think, there are a lot of strong teams that will be able to win races and go on the podium.
How do you renew and recharge yourself during the season, and what activity do you engage in during the offseason to recover?
The season is getting quite long these days – stretching to almost 10 months. So, it’s very important to utilize the few weeks of break in the winter and the summer to get reenergized. For me personally, it’s about spending time with the family, maybe in the mountains and do some cycling, go for some hikes. Just look after yourself, eat well, sleep well, and try to get the maximum out of every day.
“Diversity and inclusion are very close to our hearts. As a Formula 1 team with great global visibility, we need to be at the front to aim for more diversity.”
There has been a much closer relationship with Mercedes-AMG this year. Can you explain why?
AMG has historically been a brand that has grassroots in motorsport. So, there is a clear alliance between Mercedes-AMG and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team. It’s simply in our DNA to bring performance into road cars and into racing cars.
At the end of 2020, you welcomed INEOS as an equal shareholder. What benefits will that bring as you move into the new season?
We welcomed INEOS to join us as a shareholder. Now there’s an equal shareholding between Mercedes, INEOS and myself. That strengthens the shareholder base. INEOS is a high-performing petrochemicals business. They are also very active in the world of sports. It’s obvious that, in terms of mindset and values, the three of us are very well aligned.
Diversity and inclusion are key parts of the team’s vision. How important is it for you to play an active role in this case?
Diversity and inclusion are very close to our hearts. As a Formula 1 team with great global visibility, we need to be at the front to aim for more diversity. I personally believe that the more diversity we have in opinion, in culture, the better we will perform.
The team is also entering into new areas of activity, diversifying in its non-F1 activities including the applied science division. What are your ambitions for this part of the company?
We have created our applied science division where we aim to translate intellectual property and know-how into other areas of sport. We’re very proud to have been part of the development of the Americas Cup for Team INEOS and their cycling activities. Together with INEOS and other partners, we aim to grow our applied science division.