Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has spoken about how he has adjusted to life in Formula 1 without close friend and colleague Niki Lauda.
Three-time F1 World Champion Niki Lauda passed away in May 2019, having endured several months of poor health arising from the lung injuries he sustained in his life-changing crash at the Nurburgring in 1976.
Lauda, a stakeholder in the Mercedes F1 team and their non-executive chairman, had worked closely with CEO Toto Wolff over the years since Wolff’s arrival in 2013 – the pair became close personal friends alongside their working relationship.
Wolff was devastated following Lauda’s death in 2019, and recently explained how he has become more introverted at race weekends as a result of being on his own.
“Foremost, I miss him as a friend,” Wolff told Tom Clarkson on the Beyond the Grid podcast when asked about the impact of Lauda’s death on the Mercedes team.
“We spent so much time together, travelling to every race, every single dinner on race weekends we would get together and discuss what happened during the day or family matters.
“And that friend is gone. It’s like a part of my whole being in Formula 1 is missing. And I had to recalibrate, but there are evenings where I don’t feel like meeting anybody else or going to events where I knew this would have been an evening that I would sit with Niki at a table and have a laugh.
“These days are gone, so I’ll have room service on my own. So I think about him every single day. Particularly this season also, I’m sure he would have been a great sparring partner and sounding board.”
Asked whether he was speaking literally or metaphorically about sitting on his own ordering hotel room service, Wolff admitted race weekends can be lonely days for him.
“When I’m not having Susie [Wolff] with me at the races, or a friend, then it can be quite a lonely moment because I don’t want to small talk,” he said.
“I want to leave my team in peace, also to have their careers and their get-together because, when I’m there, maybe that’s more stressful. So yeah, it is room service literally, it gives me time to think.”
Toto Wolff: Niki Lauda would have loved the challenge of 2022
With Mercedes’ performance taking a dip in 2022 as the Brackley-based squad initially struggled to adapt to the new regulations introduced, Wolff believes Lauda would have relished the challenge of trying to bring the team back to the sharp end.
“He loved it. When things were too easy, he got bored,” Wolff remarked when asked about whether Lauda would have enjoyed the ‘chips being down’.
“When it got tough, this is where his determination came out. He was feeling and being right on it, ‘What can we do to change that?’
“He was very good at simplifying things, ‘you’re overthinking that’. It’s got to come down to a single solution, and that’s something that I have learned from him sometimes not to overthink too much.”
Toto Wolff: Niki Lauda would have scoffed at idea of ‘Lauda Drive’
Recently, Mercedes unveiled a renamed road within their Brackley campus, renaming the former ‘Reynard Drive’ to ‘Lauda Drive’ to commemorate their late colleague.
Wolff was on hand for the unveiling, paying tribute to Lauda in a small ceremony at the site, but admitted that the no-nonsense Austrian probably wouldn’t have been a fan of the gesture.
“Fair credit to Bradley [Lord] and the marketing team to have had this idea,” Wolff said.
“But, in the end, we had quite a laugh because Niki would have ridiculed this, ‘What are you guys doing? Who cares anyway?’
“There were some crowds when we unveiled it and Niki would have said, ‘why are you not working?’ So it was a good way of remembering Niki and how he was!”