Mercedes’ team boss Toto Wolff says that he’s identified the person who will eventually replace him in the team principal role. At some point in the not too distant future, Toto Wolff says he will step aside from his role as team principal of the Mercedes team. His contract in the role comes to an end at the conclusion of the 2020 season but, over the course of this year, he’s made it very clear that he wishes to step aside from the day to day running of the team.
As a businessman and investor, Wolff holds significant shares in the Formula 1 team and has already said that he won’t be going anywhere in terms of leaving the team but wants to find a less demanding role that would allow him to spend more time at home with his family.
Speaking after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, which resulted in a Mercedes 1-2 and the team clinching their seventh consecutive Constructor’s Championship, Lewis Hamilton was asked about his contract situation going forward. His deal comes to an end at the same time as Wolff’s, and it’s speculated that his decisions are linked to what Wolff decides to do as Toto and Lewis have grown very close over the course of the past seven years.
“I don’t even know if I’m going to be here next year so it’s not really a concern for me at the moment.” said Hamilton. “No, I think I understand and we have a lot of deep conversations, Toto and I, so I’m very, very aware of where he is mentally and we share a lot of … and carry a lot of the weight together, I think. Jeez, yeah, I’ve been in a long, long time. I can definitely understand wanting to pull back and give more time to family and those things. I don’t know who he would replaced but again, he’s a leader, he’s not going to put anyone that’s not going to be able to do the job, not going to be up to it, who’s not going to be geared up. He will find the right people. That’s why we have the success we have, we’ve found the right people and put them in the position to be able to shine as bright as possible. He’s just empowered every single person in the team, to be the best they can be. So he will find somebody that’s able to take on and continue…”
Wolff has been team boss since 2013, taking over from Ross Brawn during that year as Wolff purchased 30% of the Mercedes F1 team.
One possibility that has been suggested is that Wolff could become the team CEO or a non-executive role like the one Niki Lauda used to have. Whatever he decides to do, it’s a decision that will have to be made
Wolff acknowledged his business link with Daimler over the team, saying: “My situation is a little bit different to Lewis, because I’m a co-owner with Mercedes of the team, so I’m never going to abandon it, because it’s just what I love to do.”
“What’s better than to be part of a sports team, to be part of such a fantastic gang of people?
“What I said is that I believe everybody has a shelf life in a role. I haven’t come to the end of mine, I think I can still contribute. But I need to think about the future also going forward. Bringing somebody up, developing him doing this role, is something that is a fantastic challenge for me that will be one of the next chapters. But you will see me around for a while.”
When asked if he had identified a potential replacement, Wolff confirmed, “I have, but I can’t tell you.”
Wolff went on to say that he thinks he and Hamilton ‘go together in a way’, saying: “We have a symbiosis and obviously it’s important where our heart is and mindset is for next year.”
“But I’ve said that this is my team. I’m in a very proud corner with Mercedes and I’m not going to go anywhere.
“But it’s like Niki Lauda in the 1970’s: you could wake up one morning on a Friday or Saturday morning at a track and say: ‘I’m just not having fun anymore.’ And I think that can happen to anybody.
“But we want to continue this journey. We are not finished. Lewis and I and all the team, we’re not finished.”
However, something is delaying Hamilton & Wolff from signing new contracts with Mercedes. Wolff wouldn’t be drawn on what is causing the hold-up, saying that the focus has just been on securing the championships first:
“With Mercedes and I, we are pretty much clear: it’s just down to putting pen on the paper at the right moment,” Wolff explained.
“I was also concentrated on bringing these championships home and it always feels not right to spend days with lawyers and legal people, when I’m so focused on just what’s happening on track.”
“I think that this is where Lewis and I are very similar. It just didn’t feel the right opportune moment to sit down before those championships were not done.”
“And there will be a moment when the drivers’ championship is going to be decided, to sit down. And we have a few months before the first race happens in Australia.”