Toto Wolff concerned about Oscar Piastri precedent and warns ‘the boy better be quick’

Sam Cooper
Toto Wolff walking. Russia September 2021

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff walking through the Russian Grand Prix paddock. Russia September 2021

Toto Wolff has voiced concern that Oscar Piastri’s contentious move to McLaren has set a bad precedent in the sport.

Piastri became the most talked about name in Formula 1 during the summer break when he very publicly rejected Alpine’s offer of a 2023 race seat.

Following the settlement of a contract dispute, he was confirmed as the next McLaren driver despite having spent several years in the Alpine Academy.

Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer questioned the young Australian’s “integrity” and another team principal, Wolff, has now provided his thoughts on the situation.

Mercedes, under Wolff’s leadership, have their own academy and have helped to nurture the likes of Esteban Ocon and George Russell to the F1 track. Wolff is now concerned Piastri’s manoeuvring may dissuade teams from having their own academy talents.

“What I really stand firm for is all of us constructors are investing a lot of money in our junior programmes,” said Wolff, quoted by The Race.

“We invest human resources that go to the go-kart tracks, to the junior formulas, and in some cases it’s little money, in some cases it’s more.

“George Russell and Esteban Ocon, we financed them a long way on. To know now a precedent has been set that if you are clever you can manoeuvre yourself out is something that’s clearly not good for the industry.

“So we will employ even more lawyers for even stricter contracts.”

Wolff touched on Szafnauer’s integrity comments and said Mercedes also choose to focus on a driver’s character as well as their ability.

“For me, I believe in the integrity also of the drivers we have,” the Austrian said.

“I think we need to be positive, to try and find talent and develop them, but hope on the character.”

Wolff agreed with the suggestion Alpine had made a mistake with the contract of their young talent but warned Piastri, given his entrance into Formula 1, will need to impress.

“Contracts are the underlying fundamentals of any professional commercial dealings with each other, that’s clear,” he said.

“But in this world, you will probably be able to spot the gaps, or opportunities, in every contract. And then it’s up to the judges to determine what the outcome is.

“I think I’ve made many mistakes in my life when I thought a contract covered all angles and it didn’t.

“Then it comes down to the human and to the kind of long-term perspective one has on the relationships.

“Again, very difficult to judge from the outside. There are always two parts of the story.

“But the boy better be quick.”