Mercedes’ Toto Wolff has paid tribute to Guenther Steiner’s F1 leadership, while also leaping to the defence of the ousted Mick Schumacher.
Steiner and Wolff had shared the grid as F1 team bosses for almost a decade, both representing the best interests of the Haas and Mercedes squads, respectively.
However, Steiner was removed from his role as Haas team boss by owner Gene Haas just before the 2024 season, and Wolff has joined the list of names paying tribute to his departing grid colleague as Steiner seeks new opportunities.
Toto Wolff: Guenther Steiner a ‘loss’ for F1
With Wolff confirming his own employment arrangements for the foreseeable future as he confirmed a new three-year deal to remain as team boss at Mercedes, the Austrian also took the time to praise Steiner.
Speaking in an interview with Italy’s La Gazzetto dello Sport, Wolff said he felt Steiner’s personality shone through over the past decade – especially with the popularity of Netflix TV show Drive to Survive making a star of Steiner.
“For F1, it is a loss,” he said.
“Guenther is a character who has become very popular and has brought the team and the brand crazy exposure compared to the results.
“He makes the Netflix phenomenon smile, but he is a great personality, and he will be missed.”
However, Steiner’s decision to release Mick Schumacher at the end of 2022 – just as the German driver showed pace to counter his numerous costly accidents – ended up being to Mercedes’ gain as the Brackley-based squad signed Schumacher as their reserve driver.
Wolff couldn’t resist pointing this out, but paid tribute to Steiner’s forthright honesty in a sport where integrity isn’t always at the forefront.
“I can complain about how he treated Mick, who is close to my heart, when he did not confirm him,” Wolff said.
“But you cannot say that Guenther is not sincere and honest. And that is not a common thing in F1.”
Guenther Steiner: Haas is free to do what he wants
Steiner’s split from Haas was a decision taken by Gene Haas, citing the ongoing lack of competitiveness of his team.
Steiner has said a “fair assessment” of why that decision was made came as a result of Steiner requesting additional investment into the team’s infrastructure and facilities – separate to the F1 budget cap under which each team operates annually.
“I would say what is a fair assessment is when you look at the other teams where they are going since the budget cap came into place, a lot of teams – all of the teams – invested in the infrastructure,” he said.
“Therefore it is not spending money, it is investing to use the budget cap, the operational budget cap, as best as possible that you can put money in to make the car go quickly. Some people started straight away in 2020, 2021. Some people started last year, but everybody is doing it.
“I think that was one of the things. I look at the other ones and I suggest what needs and should be done.
“Obviously, I think without me in 2020, [Haas] wouldn’t have been around anymore. But Gene Haas owns the team so in the end he’s free to do what he wants.
“I cannot accuse him of anything. I can accuse him but it doesn’t do anything because he can make his decisions, he is free to decide.
“I am actually fine, my life will continue. I will have fun, I will stay around. Something will pop up. I’m doing good.
“In the end, a good period in my life came to an end, but maybe an even better one starts.”