Toto Wolff reveals the ‘decisive moment’ in face-off with Mercedes management

Sam Cooper
Toto Wolff with the Mercedes logo behind him.

Toto Wolff is hoping to lead a Mercedes resurgence.

Toto Wolff has revealed when he went toe to toe with the Mercedes board and came out with more funding.

Wolff may have been a shareholder from the moment he joined Mercedes in 2013 but his sway was not as powerful as it is today.

When he first arrived, he found a team not equipped to fight for what Mercedes believed they had paid for – World Championships – and knew how to fix it.

Toto Wolff recalls early Mercedes showdown

Mercedes’ return to the sport came with the unusual aspect of purchasing a title-winning constructor in the form of Brawn GP who had pulled off the impossible to win the 2009 World Championship double.

Given that success, Mercedes may well have expected an immediate return on their investment, but that turned out not to be the case.

Red Bull would emerge as the sport’s dominant force and shortly before Wolff arrived, he quickly identified what the problem was.

“I told them ‘I am at Williams running exactly the same budgets and my expectation is top six and you have the same budget and your expectation is World Champions. That is what is wrong,’” Wolff said in the F1 Racing Confidential book.

“They were very angry but I said ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ so when I came in I told Mercedes I need to have the same budget as our main competitors, Ferrari and Red Bull.

“’I won’t guarantee this will make us win the championship but I can guarantee that if you don’t give it to us you will not win it’.

“That was the decisive moment and the board said ‘tell us what you need.’

Decisive moment is an accurate way to describe it for Wolff, who would go on to guide Mercedes to a record-breaking eight consecutive Constructors’ championships, a run that only ended in 2022.

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Wolff recalled what he felt when he first moved to Brackley and how it would soon become an all-encompassing job.

“Before coming, Brackley – because I called them Team Brackley – was a team of survivors because they survived racing, they survived Honda, they survived Brawn and they survived the transition to Mercedes in those years so they were survivors.

“But there was not a sense of a team feeling what I thought a team should have but they did have this very strong group that was there for a long time with a lot of expertise. What I tried to implement was coherence and team values. The right mindset, empowerment and a no-blame culture.

“I was totally immersed in every decision, be it a technical one or commercial.

“I have always had long relationships and I knew that if I took the decision then this was a decision for life. It would no longer simply be an investment because I realised F1 is my niche and I love what I do.”

F1 Racing Confidential is a new book from Guardian journalist Giles Richards and features interviews from the likes of Wolff, Christian Horner and Lando Norris on what it is like to work in F1. The book is set for release on February 29.

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