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Blow for Williams as Toto Wolff is confirmed as Mercedes motorsport boss
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Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Jan 2013   |  11:51 am GMT  |  129 comments

Williams F1 team has been left in a tricky position by a decision by one of its shareholders and senior managers, Toto Wolff, to take up the role of executive director with Mercedes F1.

Wolff will become a 30% shareholder of Mercedes Grand Prix, Niki Lauda will hold 10%, however in a rather awkward conflict, Wolff will retain his 15% shareholding in the Williams team, for the time being at least.

It was important that Wolff’s retained shareholding was part of the message from the point of view of the financial picture at Williams and with regards to share price, as Williams is listed on the Frankfurt exchange. According to Bloomberg, shares in Williams Grand Prix, “fell 2 percent to 24.20 euros at 1:10 p.m.”

The Austrian, who had steadily increased his influence with the Grove team in recent years, will to some extent replace Norbert Haug, who left Mercedes just before Christmas after the disappointing results of the F1 team, although there are subtle differences in their roles.

“Williams Grand Prix Holdings PLC today announced that Toto Wolff, one of its Executive Directors, will be leaving the Company with immediate effect to take up a new role with Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd,” said a Williams statement.

“Toto will be relinquishing his seat on the Company’s Board of Directors but will retain his shareholding.”

Sir Frank Williams said in a statement that Wolff will retain his shareholding, whilst managing a rival team and noted that, “we will fight him hard on the racetrack!”

Williams will rely on his management board to steer the team through this departure, but Wolff was an important figure in the team’s relationship with the FIA and with Bernie Ecclestone in particular. He replaced Adam Parr, who did not see eye to eye with the 82 year old billionaire F1 boss.

With Williams, 70, not as strong or energetic as he used to be, Wolff provided vitality to the team and worked well alongside the team’s very capable CEO Alex Burns, who runs the team behind the scenes. Wolff will need to be replaced to maintain that energy and direction. Williams also lost Prof Mark Gillan over the winter. He was responsible for all track operations.

A statement from Mercedes said, “Toto Wolff is to become both a shareholder and executive director of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd. and will take over the complete coordination of all Mercedes-Benz motorsport activities.”

Like Haug, he will be in charge of all Mercedes motorsport, including DTM and F3, although it will be more of an overseer role, with F1 his primary operational function.

Wolff has a strong history on the DTM side of the business through his investment in HWA, the partner of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport in DTM racing.

The Mercedes F1 team previously had Ross Brawn as team principal, Nick Fry as CEO and Niki Lauda as no-exec chairman. The Mercedes statement said that “Together with Ross Brawn, Lauda and Wolff will complete the management of the Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 racing team.”

There was no mention of Fry in the new landscape and Mercedes sources say that “there are still details that are under discussion.”

Wolff’s role is clearly going to be from the Mercedes corporate side, representing their interests. He lives in Switzerland currently, but will be based at Mercedes HQ in Brackley. He will report to the Daimler board on non-F1 matters, but on F1 matters will report via the Mercedes GP team board through Lauda to the Daimler board, as does Brawn.

Lauda remains the main conduit back to the Daimler board for the F1 team.

Although today’s development is a positive one for Mercedes and strengthens their talent pool greatly, it also means that Mercedes’ F1 team will have an “Austrian arm” (with shareholdings) and a “British arm” (without shareholdings) to its management. It’s clear where the power lies.

Knowing how F1 politics work, it is going to be very interesting to see how this plays out.

* If you want to know more about Toto Wolff and hear how he thinks about F1, you can check out the interview I did with him on the JA on F1/UBS podcast, from last October here. JA on F1 podcast Wolff segment starts at 15m 14s.

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129 Comments
  1. Spyros says:

    What’s going on at Mercedes? Is this how they intend to improve themselves, with the same team of engineers but more highly-paid managers looking over them?

    Isn’t that what Toyota did? Mind you, at least they threw so much money after their management and infrastructure in Cologne, that after all these years TWO other F1 teams still use their 5 year-old wind tunnel… I hope I’m not the only one who sees the irony in that!

    1. IP says:

      haha yeah i was thinking the same thing… might this mean cheap merc engines for williams?

      1. Spyros says:

        Merc doesn’t seem keen to supply more teams with engines, but this might change if Force India decides to switch to Ferrari from 2014.

      2. Wayne says:

        Isn’t Susie still employed by Williams? All seems a bit incestuous to me.

      3. Wayne says:

        Booting out Fry for Wolfe and Lowe seems odd, who has a better pedigree than Brawn?

      4. Mat Francis says:

        Didn’t Renault engines win the last three constructors championships?
        Merc did it in 2009 with Brawn (and that ‘double diffuser’ was more influential than the engine) and before that just once in 1998!
        Renault have done it 11 times, I think I’d wanna stick with them…

      5. IP says:

        well it’s a difficult point to argue, given the stats, but the merc enging has been the class of the field for some time, just hasn’t matched up to a decent chassis for enough of the time in my opinion

        but, the renault donk has been very successful.

    2. Andrew Carter says:

      It’s more than two, I think half the grid have used it at some point.

      1. Spyros says:

        Ah yes… I was thinking about who is using it now, but that’s a good point. Isn’t that where the old Force India Vs Caterham (then known as Lotus) ‘they-copied-our-mirrors’ scandal allegedly happened?

      2. Andrew Carter says:

        No that was somewhere in Italy (Fondmetal?).

      3. DB says:

        And Pirelli tested their tyres on Toyota’s cars too.

    3. gudien says:

      This is a huge story as opposed to all the ‘fan’ type articles which never end. Just how many ‘managers’ does the Merc F-1 team require?

      On another note thank goodness we have Niki Lauda in the mix to keep everyone on the straight and narrow! LOL

      1. Sebee says:

        Remember all that investment and new bug hires Honda made…and then….pow! Out of F1 in a blink.

    4. KRB says:

      If this story’s true (not giving it credence yet), then there’ll be a new engineer:

      http://sportbild.bild.de/SPORT/formel-1/2013/01/21/paddy-lowe/mclaren-techniker-zu-mercedes.html

      Personally, I can’t see it … it’s very late to be doing such a switch. But Lowe is the 2nd best tech director on the grid after Newey. And where would he fit in at Merc?

      Merc need a top tire guy, from either Bridgestone or better yet Pirelli, who knows the in’s and out’s of high performance tires.

      1. Martin says:

        Presumably there’d be gardening leave attached to such a high level guy leaving on his own.

      2. James Allen says:

        No, it is “with immediate effect”

      3. Enzo says:

        If Lowe would go to Mercedes, where would that leave Nick Fry? And if Fry get’s sacked, how long before Ross Brawn has had enough?

      4. David Ryan says:

        James, I suspect Martin was referring to Paddy Lowe rather than Toto Wolff. Given his role within McLaren and their attention to detail with all matters, I would expect Lowe to end up on gardening leave were he to depart. It would be a surprise for them to include a break clause permitting him to move to a rival team so easily.

  2. Peter Doff says:

    More management can be good if they are all
    working together,if not could be a real distraction,interesting to see who will still be there at end of season.

  3. Rein says:

    Toto Wolff seems to have the ability to turn projects with a relatively noise-free, pragmatic approach into success. He also seems to get on with BE (Because he is money-wise on eye-level?) Perhaps we will also see some kind of Williams integration at a later stage. 2014 Mercedes drivetrain, technology transfer etc.. How knows. For me, F1 offtrack was never more exciting.

    1. olivier says:

      Yes, but isn’t that supposed to be Lauda’s role?

  4. WiLL says:

    Fry is as good as gone. This time next year it will be Brawn on his way if they dont show some signs of serious progress.

    And is it just me or does it look like Daimler are scaling back from their F1 involvement. Wouldnt surprise me if they end up selling the team to Wolff eventually and beomming an engine only supplier like Renault.

    1. James O'Neill says:

      In one of the other reports it said that Daimler only held 60% of the F1 team and had bought the remaining 40% held by Aabar and sold it on to Wolff and Lauda

      It was said they were thinking about going back to just doing engines (which is basically the former Ilmor operation) and decided to stay in at the end of last season, and have then decided to throw the kitchen sink at landing a championship. Hire Hamilton so they have a driver capable of doing the job. Fire Haug and Fry. Get Lauda and Wolff in. One thing is for sure they can’t keep on failing. If they don’t establish themselves at the front with this line up, Brackley might be a good place to be a signwriter before the start of F1 2016.

  5. Andrew M says:

    The more I hear about the Mercedes management structure, the more I fear for Lewis’ career…

    1. AuraF1 says:

      I think the board are setting up a 3 year exit strategy. If Lewis and the new structure produce success, they may stay, if not, Lewis goes back to McLaren, Mercedes have a structure they can sell the team to and everyone exits with a (relatively) minimum of fuss.

      I think Lewis has the 2013-2015 seasons no problem however, unless Daimler have a massive financial crash, they won’t walk away from this ‘last ditch’ approach. They’re just planning an exit if it goes wrong by the end of 2015.

      1. Schumerak says:

        Agreed. If they can find the millions to hire Lauda Wolff Lowe Hamilton and who knows else why can’t they find the extra $30m to develop the car mid season…

    2. Zack says:

      Agree. I was feeling quite positive about Lewis’ move but all these layers of management have got me concerned. Not sure why you need all these people to manage an F1 team, when other teams seem to be doing fine with one team principal. How about hiring some aerodynamacists instead!

      1. Alex says:

        I feel a little more optimistic for Lewis with Toto onboard. He seemed to have good raport with the Williams team personnel – particularly the drivers. My big hope is that Toto will be able to build a strong relationship with Lewis and help him deal with potential difficulties.

        Another thought is that perhaps the appointment of Toto, in addition to Lauda, will leave Brawn the space and time to focus on the technical side of the team which is surely where his strengths lay.

      2. Wanja says:

        They replaced Loic Bigois with Mark Elliott from Lotus in the middle of last year. Bigois is now officially at Ferrari.

    3. Chris says:

      +1 Andrew, many changes have been announced since he signed – I would if alarm bells are ring for Lewis? Here is hoping we are wrong.

    4. Steven says:

      Im sure Lewis new of the changes coming, I dont think all these changes are last minute.

    5. Max Smoot says:

      prediction for mid-season: Hamilton team leader at Merc, Rosberg returns to Williams, Susie the new number two at Mercedes

  6. Tim says:

    I’ve had the feeling all along that Wolff wants to own an F1 team, and Daimler is really moving the pieces on the chess board. Covering all the bases, including an easing-out or all-out exit strategy, some years down the road. Keeping their options open. Very well engineered!

    Tim

    1. Neil says:

      I have the same feeling. I wonder if something in Williams has pushed Mr Wolff towards Merc? did he geet bored of waiting?

      But Lauda is the oddity in the set up – in many ways!

      1. James Allen says:

        If you put yourself in Wolff’s shoes a job like this you don’t turn down. He’s a very good learner, Toto and he’ll learn a hell of a lot from this.

      2. Onko says:

        Mr Allen as always its worth reading your article with up to date content,thank you .
        Sir, is it more then it meets the eye?, Mr wolff becaming an Exe director of Merceedes F1 with 30% holding,did he bought his possition or
        is no longer “if” but when he takes the team over,in the luxury car market Merceedes is laging behind BMW in China and in particular US
        in sales, one must ask the question will the Merceedes be on the F1 grid as a team or simply as engine supplyer?, their recent beeting of the drum how good their V-6 engine
        would be in 2014, I feel they are telling something.

      3. James Allen says:

        Let not get ahead of ourselves. Merc has been on F1 a long time and plans to stay. If the team succeeds it will make that easier.

        It’s too early to talk about selling the team

        They look like they are tooling up for a serious assault

        That’s what you have to do to take on Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren

      4. Andrew Carter says:

        Wolff owns 49% of HWA, Mercedes works team in the DTM, so he’s probably been pretty friendly with the Merc board for a lot of years, even before he bought shares in Williams. No doubt they went and asked him because they already know he can do the job. Remember he never intended to become a major player at Williams but stepped in when Parr was forced out by Bernie.

      5. Wade Parmino says:

        Maybe Lauda has just found somewhere he can make his presence known, keep himself relevant and talked about in the lead up to Ron Howard’s BioPic “Rush” later in the year. Who knows? He will probably make a few highly controversial comments during the month of the film’s premiere garnering much media coverage. Cynical Yes, but The Rat is a sly one.

        The movie does appear to be very well done though. I look forward to it (almost as much as I look forward to the start of the season). :)

  7. jpinx says:

    They already have too many chiefs and not enough visionary engineers. This is fast becoming a farce and Hamilton might well be scratching his head.

  8. Miha Bevc says:

    Mercedes are becoming the Real Madrid of F1. Bringing all the superstars in one team, but will they win championships?

    1. The Catman says:

      …they just need Jose Mourinho on board now!

      TC

  9. goferet says:

    It’s good Mercedes have finally seen the error of their ways.

    Having a national team, mainly populated with national drivers and personnel has always been a wrong move — performance wise, as shown by Schumi’s time at Mercedes i.e. All over a sudden had all this bad luck and yet used to be the luckiest pilot EVER!

    On the other hand when you have a team based on the multi-cultural system e.g. Red Bull and the Schumi dream team at Ferrari >>> the results speak for themselves.

    Yes, this phenomenal can also been seen at Mclaren when they had the all British set up with British drivers = They didn’t win any silverware.

    Anyway, this move by Wolff and the fact he and Lauda have bought shares in the team shows that the Silverarrows aren’t going no where any time soon so I don’t think this team will suffer the same fate as Toyota, BMW or Honda because they have all the ingredients in place especially the drivers.

    Now concerning Williams, the time I got the first bad vibes about it’s future was when the co-founder Patrick Head sold his shares last year.

    It seems the top management do not see a long time future for the team (or in other words a successful future for the team) and thus you have this brain drain out of the team.

    P.s.

    With Rosberg being the only German team at Mercedes, I reckon he will suffer the blunt of bad luck.

    Call it a link.

  10. Merlinghnd says:

    Honda Racing get frustrated and the team becomes Brawn GP with Brawn/Fry making £squillions when sold to Mercedes who get frustrated and the team becomes Wolff GP with Wolff/Lauda who makes £squillions when sold to ???????

    History repeating itself?

    1. Spyros says:

      So we’ll have two Austrian F1 teams?

      It’s a pity this didn’t happen with Toyota (well, it almost did, with that Serbian guy whose name I don’t remember). If their windtunnel is so good that teams still queue to use it so much time later, there must be many frustrated former team members around, wondering ‘what if’…

      1. Gavin Campbell says:

        Haha Stefan GP (Zoran Stefanovic that guy was as legitamite as cheque written on a bar of soap.

        I think he had eyes wider than the combined bellies of Serbia!

      2. Sebee says:

        Stefan something or rather. Obviously it’s not just a matter of money, but a matter of others approving your presence in the sport first.

        We can now look at the new teams with some perspective 3 years on. It seems that entry and grid slot is not worth that much. HRT could have been bought out if someone wanted to be on the grid “on the cheap” in 2013. Marussia – 2013 is a make it or break it year for them. Caterham, OK. But all and all, not much to write about these three teams. Resrouce agreement was a no go, and only deep pockets will help.

        If you really really think about it, I think we’re on some delicate ground here lately.

        HRT – out
        Marussia/Caterham – OK, but still pointless.
        Force India – Smoke? Without a fire?
        Mercedes – that whole team has a certain “aura” around it from day 1. I really feel like it may not be that far removed that they follow the Renault F1 Team model.

        And so, there are some serious question marks on the grid.

      3. James Clayton says:

        ‘HRT could have been bought out if someone wanted to be on the grid “on the cheap” in 2013′

        No. HRT didn’t have an offer of entry into the 2013 championship. So any buyer would have had to do a whole lot more than just purchase up the remains of HRT.

      4. Sebee says:

        James,

        I think that happened because they didn’t pay their $500k entry fee. But they had many of the other requirements covered. I don’t know if FIA needs that $40m deposit for new teams, but whoever bought HRT would not have to jump through as many hoops to be on the grid in 2013.

  11. Chapor says:

    Toto Wolff… The next Bernie Ecclestone? Quite an interesting career so far…

  12. Scuderia McLaren says:

    Without commenting on the confusing situation of having an oversupply of Cheifs at Mercedes, it’s Williams I worry for. We were just seeing maybe the resurgence of Williams but since Parr left, too many top line people have gone. Sam Michael, Gillian, Parr, Wolff and some other non published people. I don’t think a team like Williams can lose all that human quality without taking a morale and operational hit. And therefore that translating to a performance and momentum hit. The team just became positive and proactive again internally.

    I think Frank is really going to regret not supporting and holding onto Parr more. This was Williams’ last chance at returning and I feel it is being undone as quick as it began. Frank should have put his foot down (metaphorically) and told Bernie to back off and that this was the new Williams.

    For a small moment, I thought Williams just might avoid the fate of Team Lotus (original team).

    1. David says:

      I share your fears. Cooper, Brabham, Lotus…

    2. Hendo says:

      What was the issue between Bernie and Adam Parr.

      1. Wanja says:

        Parr wasn’t quite satisfied with the Ecclestone’s concorde agreement.

      2. Wade Parmino says:

        Bernie spat the dummy and basically cut off negotiations with Williams, effectively demanding Parr’s resignation. Adam Parr’s book “The Art of War – Five Years in Formula One” explains how it came to this.

    3. Martin says:

      Parr hmmm maybe he’s coming back, who do you think can lead Williams under Sir Frank James, how about a promotion for Claire Williams ?

      1. James Allen says:

        Claire is great but I think she would admit that Comms are her forte

        I can see them getting someone in. Difficult to find the right person, as it needs to be someone for the long haul and shareholders won’t want a risky appointment

      2. The Catman says:

        Well she has a degree in Politics, seems ideal :) :)

        TC

      3. Martin says:

        More work for Sir Frank in the short term then.

    4. Onko says:

      Scud McLaren, a Bulls Eye in regard to Williams,sad but is Titanic.
      Cheers.

      1. Scuderia McLaren says:

        Sigh… Thanks Onko. It is a bit like watching the Titanic. A little ray of sunshine, which was very well and hard earned by Parr, gave me a false feeling of “Yes, Williams is back!”.

        But perhaps it’s not too be. Makes one realise how well McLaren and Ferrari have done to not only survive but to prosper in F1 all this time.

        My moniker pay respect to that. Scuderia McLaren for ever I suppose.

      2. Wade Parmino says:

        Williams and Ferrari are still solidly connected to their heritage. McLaren (Dennis) has not been around as long as Williams in this respect.

      3. Scuderia McLaren says:

        Not sure I entirely understand your point Wade.

        Just an example:

        Ferrari’s true heritage has not traditionally been to have an absolute No.1 driver and No.2 drivers, yet this is how the team has evolved over past decade and a half.. From a sporting perspective, Ferrari are not connected to their sense of internal competition anymore or their sporting legacy left my Enzo. In some ways that makes them more united and stronger. In other ways, it weakens them.

        McLaren remain connected to their sporting roots as set out by Bruce McLaren. Williams of course is still connected well because Frank lives. Their first chapter is still being written. However, this connectivity has potentially been at the expense of success and survival.

        My point was at least Ferrari and McLaren have written a few chapters and live to tell their respective tales.

  13. CW says:

    How long until Toto has Bernie’s job? He’s clearly got his eyes on the prize. I give him three years, max…

    1. Andrew Carter says:

      That depends, when are the German Prosecutors going to throw the book at Bernie?

      1. Wade Parmino says:

        ASAP. I hope (but Wolff doesn’t seem any better).

  14. Adam says:

    I think the one with the most to fear is Lauda. I suspect some on the board heard rumblings from the very quiet and diplomatic Brawn that he was not happy. Fearing the brains and the “brawn” of the operation could quit they need a voice they trust as the tie breaker for now and replacement if Lauda gets out of hand. Brawn has the upper hand because short of Adrian Newey being next onboard they had no choice but to retain him. Brawn quits it is really game over for Mercedes and they have little value to retrieve from the team. No this is a careful correction of a mistake they made with Lauda that leaves open lots of future options.

    I also suspect Nick Fry is now talking to Sir Frank!

    1. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

      Whilst Ross is a very capable manager, Mercedes F1 have other talented managers in their arsenal that could step into his place. Aldo Costa is Engineering Director (at least under the old corporate structure!) for instance

  15. Random Person says:

    Are we soon going to see Suzie Wolff anounced as Mercedes reserve driver then?

    1. zombie says:

      Heh heh ! After Lauda anything is possible ! While they are at it, they should hire Jackie Stewart as their PR spokesman !

      1. Wade Parmino says:

        Jackie Stewart should head the FIA.

    2. clyde says:

      Why reserve driver ??? wolff might probably replace hamilton with her :-)

  16. alex says:

    I was never a big fan of Nick Fry. In the old BAR, HOnda days I felt he made a real hash of the media side in regards to drivers, expectation etc. James; has Nick Fry been been a particularly visible member of the Merc team for you?
    Clearly Wolff has the experience of working with Mercedes and certainly the network there plus knows F1. good appointment by Merc. Shame for Williams

    1. toleman fan says:

      +1 to the question. ( But only the question)..

      Deserved or not, Fry did not have a good public image as Honda front man. Under Mercedes, his profile has been so low I thought he’d left Brackley years ago until you mentioned his presence at an F1 business forum a few months back. What’s he been doing? Do you expect him to reappear with another team if he leaves Mercedes?

  17. Joe says:

    James – I would assume that when Brawn sold to Mercedes that he would have been tied to remaining at the firm on some multi-year contract… Would you agree, and if so do you know when that is likely to expire?

    1. James Allen says:

      I don’t know but have assumed either three or five years

      1. alexyoong says:

        I am starting to get worried here- the BBC website is now reporting that Brawn is potentially out, as well as Fry, with Lowe effectively running the team and Wolff as team principal..

        It’s an Eddie Jordan rumour, but how many times has he said something is happening, everyone laughs at him, then it happens?

        If, and granted it is at the moment an if, that is right, what the hell is going on? Haug, Brawn out? Lauda and Wolff (bad/no record re running team to speak of) in. What the?

        The whole thing is reminsicent of Ford fiddling with Jaguar, and I am not just saying that because Lauda is involved.

  18. Noah Shuster says:

    Wolff is very smart. It´s a shame for Frank Williams, his team now is downhill. Instead in trust in his seniors employees, he left the team for a rookie. The result is that. For Wolff everything is fine, his drivers is in F1, he has two shareholdings in F1 teams and his influence is increasing.

    Frank committed several mistakes, dropping Bruno Senna and trusting in the wrong people. He should return to his old form and replace Bottas for Bruno. His team would have more resources, carisma and talent and he would show that he still has control of the actions.

    1. Wanja says:

      Bruno Senna did not quite deliver, in no team he has ever been in. Lots of excuses and mediocre performance. Getting someone new in was a smart move.

      1. Fernando Cruz says:

        No way! Bruno Senna had never had a proper full season before Williams’s and could improve a lot in a second year, as stated by other departing people, like Tom McCullogh.

        I doubt Bottas can do as well as Bruno Senna would do in a second season with the team, although I reckon he will do better than Bruno did last year, as he won’t lose any FP1.

      2. Wanja says:

        Improving is one thing, impressing the other. And while Maldonado, Perez, DiResta, Vettel and Kubica impressed when they were entering Formual 1, Senna “improved”. A shame that Markus Winkelhock just had this one race, his one and only race was a hell of a good one in a backmarker team. Never seen anything like that from Senna and he has had plenty of chances.

      3. Fernando Cruz says:

        Markus Winkelhock had much better tyres for the conditions than all others, I don’t think that was particularly impressive. Impressive was the race Bruno had last year in Malaysia, lapping as fast as Alonso, Hamilton and Perez on the wet in his way from last to 6th. Had the track not dried he probably would have achieved a much better result, as he was much faster than those in front of him.

        The fact is that Bruno Senna had good results in junior series and deserved to start in F1 in 2009 with Honda or Brawn, alongside Jenson Button. Financial crisis meant Bruno could not start in 2009 with a winning team and not even in 2010 with a midfield team, as at the time he had not the money teams started to ask young talents to bring. So his career took a massive blow and he couldn’t develop at the same rate of other young talents. That is why he only had a proper full season in F1 and even that one losing 15 FP1. So he deserves a first fair chance in F1, in equal conditions with all others.

        However I understand your point. Many talented drivers (more talented than Markus Winkelhock) never had a single chance in F1, but that is the way it is. Motorsport is very expensive and a lot depends on the money factor. I remember Alonso saying there were many better drivers than him in karts that could do at least as well as him in F1 if they had the same opportunities.

        As for Bruno Senna, he lost 10 years after his uncle’s death and since 2008 he also spent too much time losing ground to other young talents due to the financial crisis. Yes, he had opportunities than many others didn’t have but the quality of the opportunities he had were very poor, mainly for someone who started his career so late.

    2. C Lin says:

      Frank should have stuck to hiring of Kimi for 2012. No thanks to Wolff……now he’s off to Mercedes.

      1. Wade Parmino says:

        Kimi was far too great a risk at the time. He would have cost a lot of money and brought in none. Sure, his comeback results were great but this was not a certainty and Williams could not afford the risk.

        Now Williams have more disposable funds they are foregoing Bruno Senna’s financial contributors and taking a moderate risk with Bottas. Bottas has been surrounded by a lot of hype, so he better live up to it.

      2. Wanja says:

        In the end of last year, I said that Williams would have been best off with Sutil and Barrichello, both experienced and fast guys who were available. And I still think they would have been the better driver line up. On the other hand you’re not quick if you don’t have the funding and Williams must have been desperate for cash to sign Senna for the press and Maldonado for straight cash. Turns out Maldonado could be a raw diamond that needs to be tamed, also turns out that Sennas performance was too low key to be memorable.
        Bottas is an interesting choice, guess Kobayashi or Glock wouldn’t have been too shabby either, but it’s too late for that.

      3. Fernando Cruz says:

        Look at how much Maldonado improved (in raw pace) in his second season with the team. Bruno Senna could do the same in a second season with Williams, also helped by better conditions – the same amount of track time of Maldonado and tyres suiting more his driving syle, unlike those of 2012, who hurted the performance of drivers with a particularly smooth style (Button even scoring just 7 points in 6 races with the best car). So Bruno can improve a lot if he has a decent chance with a midfield team. Even in Force India I think he could do as well as Paul Di Resta.

    3. Elie says:

      Rubbish Noah- Bruno is not a top line driver and sadly – never will be. Bottas has potential and Wolfe has done a great job structuring the team so far.

      1. Fernando Cruz says:

        Bottas is (already) a top line driver? He may have more potential than Bruno (we will never be sure about that) but the reason he was promoted was mainly due to Toto Wolff and also the fact he had been prepared to race in 2013. Any driver racing in 2012 alongside Maldonado would have been dropped to give way to Bottas. I wish Bruno gets the Force India drive and beats Bottas in 2013…

  19. Wade Parmino says:

    I have just read Adam Parr’s cleverly written, informative and entertaining book, “The Art of War – Five Years in Formula One”. From Adam Parr’s account, it seems that Ecclestone is willing to destroy the very fundamental aspects of Formula One if it means making an extra dollar (or saving one).

    The fact that Toto Wolff is so well endorsed by Ecclestone is not a good sign for the future. Wolff and Ecclestone especially both appear to be primarily business men with an interest in motorsport rather than a passion. Parr was also a business man, however he grew to understand the culture and fundamental values of Formula 1 which he worked towards ensuring and protecting for the future. Ecclestone is depicted as being in direct opposition to this, forcing Parr to resign for the sake of the Williams team.

    As a young man Bernie Ecclestone must have had a genuine passion for motor racing. What happened? It seems that once he discovered the fortune to be made from success in Formula 1, he was consumed by greed and gradually sold out any genuine passion he once had.

    It may be a bit of a paranoid defensive reaction on my part but I really hope Toto Wolff does not at some point start pushing for customer cars or any other idea that will destroy the soul of Formula 1.

    I highly recommend reading Adam Parr’s book; it is a very unique insight.

    1. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

      To be fair to Bernard, he has made all of the team owners (eg Frank Williams, Ron Dennis) extremely wealthy. There are plenty of stories of Bernie helping Frank out when he was struggling by lending him the odd Ford DFV.

      From what insiders appear to suggest, Bernard’s main sticking point is that the teams are complaining about wanting more money, but they’re happy to spend that money on building corporate Taj Mahal’s in the English countryside.

  20. ashboy says:

    This might work well for Williams, dont know how long their Renualt contract is but they might be able to get a good deal on Merc engines for 2014 or beyond.

    Its Mclaren who might lose out long term. If people above are correct and Merc pull out of there race team and want to put there money into a independant team like they did with Mclaren befor who would they chose? it would benifit Wolf for them to back Williams, after all he is keeping his stake in Williams so they will be running Merc engines next.

  21. TobyS says:

    Does this affect Susie Wolff’s role as a “development driver” for Williams? I realise that this is more of a PR role than a real development role, but wont there be some conflict of interest with Toto working for a rival team?

    TS

  22. F12012 says:

    The only problem with Williams is that without Maldonado, there would be a large financial hole to plug, with Mercedes you don’t need to worry about that

  23. McLaren78 says:

    James / Anyone,
    Could you help me here? Lauda said that the extra 50 billion are not coming from the Merc board. Merc are spending less than Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and even Lotus. Yet, they get Hamilton and a range of high profile engineers. Schuey rightly said that they need to spend more to win. Are they planning to spend more heavily for 2014/15? The whole thing just doesn’t make sense!

    1. Simmo says:

      Well, I’m not an expert when it comes to the money / ownership side of F1, but my understanding is that if we think back to 2009, when the new regulations were introduced Mercedes (or Brawn) found a way to beat everyone by using these regulations to the maximum.

      So, it could be that they are investing more for 2014, when the new regulations are put in place; so it could be that they are going to try and do the same here.

  24. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    Wolff will be an asset to the Mercedes Team.

    So it is good news for Hamilton’s fans, and bad news for Williams’fans.

    Mercedes is giving shares reducing its exposure, so that is good news for the financial health of Mercedes, but it seems they are also controlling everything with 60%.

    So far so good for Mercedes, Hamilton and Rosberg.

    I think Hamilton had his contract signature delayed in 2012 until having a compromise from Mercedes of not to withdraw from F1, I guess (so a compensation in money could be in place if that occurs).

    I cannot understand if Wolff is allowed to keep his shares in Williams, I guess he shall sell it because of a conflict of interets. Same point with his wife working at Williams.

    1. F458 says:

      I somehow think Hamilton will not be short of offers from F1 teams even if Merc withdraws?

  25. Rich C says:

    WHOA!!
    What a shock!
    And now, what about Susie?

    Wheels within wheels. Talk about your conflicts of interest!

  26. John M says:

    When are all the pieces going to be in place at Mercedes? It sure seems like a lot of instability in the team. To me, no matter the sport, an unstable management structure is not a recipe for success. I really want to see Lewis (and Nico to an extent) suceed at Mercedes, but I’m skeptical given the seemingly constant changes.

  27. Wanja says:

    Rumor has it that Nick Fry is due to be replaced by Paddy Lowe from Mclaren.

    1. db4tim says:

      Not going to happen the rumor I hear.

  28. richardc says:

    Why oh why is it whenever Merc employ someone new all the team (expert) managers come out of the wood work?? I am pleased that not only are they employing the best for today they are looking to the future. This has to be good for LH. I personally think Merc are in for the long haul and can see you need solid foundations, then good infrastructure,then performance will follow.

    1. F458 says:

      Or it might be last chance saloon to get all the talent on board they can. They need to show the board they are taking steps to put the team in a good performance direction. Remember all it takes is a vote during a board meeting and for a couple of members to believe too much cash is being burnt for poor results and the plug could be pulled on the whole F1 team (see BMW, Honda, Toyota). Personally this team seems to have too many chiefs and not enough indians.

  29. Zack says:

    James, any truth to the rumours that Paddy Lowe is joining Merc?

    1. James Allen says:

      Very much doubt it. Saw him at Prof Watkins memorial and he was talking about 2013 and 2014

      1. Merlinghnd says:

        Things move fast in F1 it seems, interesting times for all.

  30. Sarvar says:

    James,
    According to Sport Bild Paddy Lowe is gonna join Merc, and it is said to be Wolff’s initiative. Is it true?

  31. Big Al 56 says:

    I for one would like to Alex Wurz take a more prominent role at Williams. I understand he has been coaching/guiding the drivers this year, and he seems to me a bright guy. Perhaps Sporting Director, with a view to Team Principal when his own racing winds down?

  32. Bjorn says:

    I was surprised not to see Schumacher as a partowner.

    1. Wade Parmino says:

      If Schumacher was interested in team ownership, he would probably have invested while he was driving for Mercedes. He has even said that more money was required to make the team competetive and successful, so if he was inclined to team investment, it makes sense that he would have committed funding when it would benefit him the most – as a driver.

  33. Erik says:

    It’s probably just me, but while Wolffs departure may seem huge for the Williams team it’s probably not that big a deal. I mean what has he done there really?.. Bought cash in when the team was strapped, but other than that has he really done anything that another exec could not have done? He came in, talked big about fixing problems but let’s face it, he did it at a time when the probs at Williams were very obvious – it’s not like he was a visionary. I don’t see that team being better today than it was in the Montoya/BMW days for example.

    He lost a lot of respect with me with silly stunts like giving his wife a drive – not even a front runner in DTM let alone open wheelers. Someone who is seriously focused on taking a team forward does not make selfish calls like that.

    Yeah Williams is an old man and the team may look like they need young blood. But Wolf ain’t the only one who can offer that. Good luck to him I say, no big loss. Looks like Frank may think the same, he let Wolff go quite easy…

    1. Jeroen says:

      He brought in 0 Cash. He arranged an IPO so Mr Head could cash in. He rigged that whole thing ending up with a 19% stake for less than the IPO price as a front for an as yet unknown master

  34. alastair emmerson says:

    I totally respect all of the above comments about wether this will be good or bad, as things go nobody has a clue how its going to go with Wolff being added. I hope being a Hamilton fan, that its a very good thing for the team. Little by little merc are putting together a very clever and very strong team.

  35. Seems like a lot of people are leaving Williams…

  36. Dave C says:

    This is a farce, all engineered by old Bernie for Hamilton to claim the title in 2014, whilst he will try and get Alonso to win in 2013, F1 is in danger of becoming a spec series and after that theres only one way for the sport to go and thats down.
    In the conflicts in F1 politics this year I always sided with Bernie and thought Luca Di Montizemelo and Adam Parr was kicking up a fuss to distabalise F1 but in actual fact Bernie, Wolff and Lauda with bring this sport to its knees James you mark my word.

  37. Dave Aston says:

    I hope this leaves room for Bobby Rahal too.

  38. Steven says:

    I keep reading Lewis fans saying that he must be scared. IMO these changes are not last minute, IMO they have been in the works, and if thats the case Im sure Lewis new about them BEFORE he signed.

  39. Jake says:

    Now, how to entice Newey to the fold and complete the A-team.

  40. ath says:

    no-exec chairman

    sit around, cup of tea?

  41. Heinzman says:

    Get Flavio Briatore back! And before the crashgate comments fly, imagine what he would do if he took over from Bernie:

    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=Ctd-hlY6K2M

    His reaction at the above is of a man that loves racing

  42. Elie says:

    Wow rather big news just before a season launch !. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised with Totos selection given his strong Mercedes / DTM links- he would seem the strongest possible replacement for Norbert.

    I think Mercedes learned from Haug that you can’t have one guy being active in all key decision making in all its motor sport operations. For Williams this is a big hit and Sir Frank will have to come up with something pretty quick- perhaps he can call Adam Parr back or is that no chance of that ??

  43. Jeroen says:

    Couple of questions James.

    Who is paying for these shares? I mean maybe Lauda has the cash but Toto does not have the money to buy 15% of Merc F1. Who is behind this bankrolling this and his Williams stake?

    Any company like Williams will have some sort of investment agreement and it would be unthinkable that Toto can hold onto his Williams shares if he leaves, let alone go to a competitor. If however this is the case then what Wolf has done is get his (or his master’s!) claws into Williams cleverly through an IPO (which he totally arranged basically). I fear Frank has been taken for a ride and is about to find out to what extend…

    There is far more to this story I bet.

    1. James Allen says:

      Toto is an investor in many businesses and has purchased 30% of the shares of the team. He said that he does not have silent partners on this deal

  44. Ron Morgans says:

    Would it seem sensible to let Ross do his tech thing and concentrate on some magic for the 2014 car and let Wolff run the 2013 season?

  45. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    James – could you shed some further light into why the board of Mercedes, without any sort of sales campaign, has selected a relative unknown (after all Toto only has a few years involvement with Williams and F1) to purchase 30% of their team and to then install him as Executive Director/Team Principal?

    This seems to fly totally in the face of how Mercedes runs its business. Usually with a heavy emphasis on experience and accountability.

    Whilst Toto seems like a nice guy, he isn’t soley responsible for Williams’ improvement last year. I would respectfully suggest that had more to do with Mike and the technicians in the garage rather than the corporates in the office.

    Yet he seems to have leapfrogged a number of senior, respected and highly qualified personnel within the team. Surely there is more of a story there for eminent journalists like yourself to uncover?

    Is there any coincidence that Aabar also sold its shares at around about the same time? If these were the shares that Toto and Niki bought, then it would seem these changes have been long in the works.

    1. James Allen says:

      They know him well from his years as investor in HWA through DTM collaboration

      1. Toto is a total professional from my experience as a part of the investment team at nbk automotive. A powerfull motor sport executive with a foundational knowledge and experience not many can compete with.
        Great for Suzie and Toto well done Mercedes
        Paul

    2. clyde says:

      Now we know why schumacher left!…With all due respect to Mr wolff ..he aint no Ross Brawn

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