Toto Wolff has said he has no intentions of stepping aside from his role at the Mercedes F1 team any time soon but doesn’t plan on operating in his role once he feels he’s past his best.
Wolff, as team principal and CEO of the Mercedes F1 team as well as holding an over-arching role as head of Mercedes’ motorsport programmes, says he hasn’t reached the point of thinking of taking a step back from the coalface just yet.
The Austrian team boss, who led Mercedes to dominance in just his second year in charge of the Brackley-based squad – winning every title up until Max Verstappen’s victory in the 2021 Drivers’ Championship – has had a tougher two years since the ground-effect era began. But Wolff believes he still has plenty to offer the Mercedes squad for years to come.
Toto Wolff: I haven’t found someone more suitable for my role yet
Speaking in a far-reaching interview with select media, including PlanetF1.com, Wolff revealed that he constantly questions his own contribution to the F1 team after successfully implementing a ‘no-blame’ culture that has proven fruitful at maintaining team harmony through difficult periods.
Pushed on whether that questioning goes so far as to the point of thinking about stepping down from any of his leadership roles, Wolff said he hasn’t reached that point yet.
“No, I don’t, because I still think that I can contribute to the team in my area of expertise,” he said.
“That is, I think, keeping it together, although I’m very emotional sometimes.
“But they know me so well, that I have these difficult moments on Sunday night.
“No, I can contribute. Unfortunately, I haven’t found someone who I would say I think that person has more energy, more drive, more skill – all of these factors that I believe are important to be the team principal and CEO.”
Asked by PlanetF1.com about whether he has set targets for himself to try achieving before thinking about stepping down, Wolff pointed to examples of team owners/bosses who had seen their teams fall away from the front before a change of ownership and management structure helped reverse their downward trends.
“We’ve seen situations when a team principal is no more at his best – I think about Ron Dennis or Frank Williams – you don’t want to hold on to it,” he said.
“In 2012, I was eager to be the team principal of Williams, and we did it together. My title was the executive director. I forced it, in a way, because I said to Frank, ‘I want to run this and I respect’. I feel I will never be in that situation.
“I’m always on the lookout of what is the organisational structure of the future. Maybe it’s different. Maybe there’s no team principal or CEO. Maybe we have robust organisations.
“As the head of Mercedes Benz motorsport, I’m responsible for two and a half thousand people. All of the engine side, all of the chassis side, and all of the other programmes in Mercedes.”
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Given that Mercedes are currently going through a winless spell, having ended 2023 without a victory for the first season since 2011, does Wolff want to ensure his team have returned to championship glory before thinking about moving on from his role?
“I’m an owner of the team,” he said – Wolff owns 33 percent of the Mercedes F1 team, with equal shares held by Mercedes-Benz AG, and Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS.
“So I look at it with the perspective of 20 years, the next 20 years. I would like to be fighting for championships. Whenever I feel the moment is time that we change the leadership, I wouldn’t mind whether it’s good or bad.
“I think I’m doing this together with many other people. This is, for me, not like a coach or manager or trainer in saying, ‘I want to go out on a high and leave a legacy’.
“This is my thinking, I’m not going anywhere. I hope that we’re winning many, many more, but I don’t feel any entitlement.”
But, once the inevitable day comes that Wolff does hand over the reins of the F1 team to someone else, he doesn’t foresee himself wanting to take too much of a step back – particularly from an ownership perspective.
“There might be different leadership, you know, on the day-to-day, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not involved anymore,” he said.
“For me, when I look at the US American League (NFL), you have Robert Kraft (owner of New England Patriots), or Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys).
“They are very involved in what the team does, but they have a coach, the manager, the CEO, and all these people that are running it on the day-to-day.”