The news of Mercedes power unit engineer Ben Hodgkinson moving to the newly-established Red Bull Powertrains caused ructions in the paddock, as one of the key figures behind the Silver Arrows’ engines of the turbo hybrid era will move to the team’s biggest rivals.
But Mercedes’ team principal took a pragmatic view of Hodgkinson’s departure, saying that these staff changes between teams are all “part of the competition” in Formula 1.
“Well, I guess it was expected that this would happen,” Wolff told reporters at the Portuguese Grand Prix.
“This is just a battleground, such as the one-off track. And you need to acknowledge that. And the last few weeks was certainly very much a… pulling on both sides of the rope! Which I enjoyed. It’s part of the competition. So you need to take it as a sportsman and sportsmanship.”
As Red Bull begin the handover process of Honda’s intellectual property before the team leave the sport as an engine manufacturer at the end of the season, work has already started on how Red Bull Powertrains will shape up in 2022 and beyond.
Honda have said they will help Red Bull as much as possible in the development of their engine for 2021 and 2022, when a new blend of fuel is introduced in the sport, Wolff says the team have made “intelligent” moves with how they have gone about making their internal changes.
From a staffing point of view, with the teams’ factories being close together geographically, the Austrian added that the team’s approach makes total sense.
“Well, I think the right strategic steps have been, as far as I can see, set in motion from Red Bull,” said Wolff.
“I think they are going to a track with their own power unit and maybe with a new OEM [original equipment manufacturer] joining in. And that’s certainly intelligent.
“The arrangement that has been found with with Honda and carrying over the IP is also clever. And then it’s clear that they’re going to hire English engineers, because it’s in the United Kingdom.
“And there is not a lot of companies that can probably provide those engineers, so absolutely understood what the strategy is.”