Toto Wolff has announced former F1 driver Jérome D’Ambrosio, who joined Mercedes in March, will be the one to replace him if he can’t attend a grand prix this season.
D’Ambrosio, who spent a year on the Formula 1 grid with Marussia back in 2011, before racing in Formula E, already has team boss experience having led the Venturi Racing team in the electric series.
He swapped back to Formula 1 in March, signing on as Mercedes’ new driver development director with Wolff saying at the time that he can “see Jerome growing in the organisation, but at this stage, that’s his area.”
Toto Wolff: Half of his interventions during the grands prix are sensible
And it appears the 37-year-old Belgian has already done just that as he takes up the position as Wolff’s right hand, replacing Williams team boss James Vowles in that role.
So much so that should Wolff miss a grand prix, it’s D’Ambrosio who will fill the team principal role that weekend.
“When I am absent on a race weekend, Jérome will replace me,” the Austrian told Auto Hebdo. “It is true that in 11 years it has only happened three times, but it is a situation that we have to anticipate.
“Now, he has to gain credibility within the team and in the paddock, he still has time, but in case I can’t be there, he will be in my place.”
There was, however, no mention of D’Ambrosio doing so at the Dutch Grand Prix despite Wolff having suffered an arm injury during his summer break shenanigans.
He added: “Jérôme did a very good job last year with his role at Venturi. A small structure, which obviously has nothing to do with ours, which still has 2,500 people.
“However, he is involved and I must even say that half of his interventions during the grands prix are sensible.
“I assure you that this is already a remarkable score, James Allison often told me that I said 50 percent intelligent things, and 50 percent nonsense.
“More seriously, you have to give him time, but I have the impression that he has the right profile to take on this role.”
D’Ambrosio, though, is unlikely to get the role permanently any time soon.
Earlier this year Wolff spoke about his future in Formula 1, the 51-year-old revealing that a few years back he thought he’d quit at age 49 only to decide this is what he wants to continue doing.
“My plan in a way was that when I’m 49, I’m going to stop doing this,” he said, “because as a 50-year-old, you’re grown up, you’re not being team manager any more.
“But what changed then is what was [previously] the project: buy the shares, and sell the shares, like investments in our finance industry. In 2020, I came to the conclusion to say: ‘I’m going to keep this’.
“For the first time in my life, I changed my business strategy from an investment guy who buys, develops, and sells, to buy, develop, keep. It was a big change.
“It took me one year to digest that, that I don’t want to go back into the [financial] industry where I have been doing that 25 years. But actually, I wanted to become a real entrepreneur and keep this forever. That was the moment to keep on.”
Mercedes are second in the Constructors’ Championship after the Belgian Grand Prix, 256 points behind Red Bull and 40 ahead of Aston Martin.