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Toto Wolff: “Who am I to push Ross Brawn out of Mercedes?”
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Posted By: James Allen  |  10 May 2013   |  7:55 am GMT  |  62 comments

Mercedes shareholder and executive director of Mercedes F1 Toto Wolff says team principal Ross Brawn is in charge of his own destiny and will decide his own future at the Brackley-based team.

The management structure of the team, which tasted World Championship success in the form of Brawn GP in 2009 and oversaw the early years of the team’s reincarnation as Mercedes, is going through a transition.

Following the arrival of Wolff and also Niki Lauda as non-executive chairman of the team, Nick Fry stepped down from his role as CEO in March, while there is much speculation that Paddy Lowe, who has stepped down from his role as technical director at McLaren, is on his way to the team for the beginning of the 2014 season.

Brawn’s role as team principal has been the subject of speculation, but the former Ferrari and Benetton technical director has said he will decide on his long term future once he sees how the changes in the team work out.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Wolff hinted that Brawn, who took a sabbatical from the sport when Michael Schumacher retired at the end of the 2006 season before returning with Honda in 2008, may not necessarily want to continue in the long term.xpb.cc

Wolff, 41, adds that Brawn, 58, may take on a role similar to that of Patrick Head, who stepped down as technical director – with Sam Michael taking over – and took on the role as director of engineering a decade ago, reducing his day-to-day involvement in the running of the team.

“The ball is in his court. Ross is conscious that he will not do this forever,” said Wolff. “We are committed long term and he needs to look after someone who is able to do it.

“Ross doesn’t need to stay doing what he is doing at the moment. I’m not pushing him out. He isn’t sure if he wants to do it in same way, [with all the] travelling, like Patrick Head did at Williams.

“Who am I to push Ross Brawn out? That guy won 15 world championships, with three different teams and won races with four different teams.”

Should Brawn move out of his current role, Wolff gave a fairly strong indication that Lowe will slot into that position.

“Paddy is one of the most credible guys to go into a senior position and lead a team technically,” said Wolff. “In my mid to long term view, Ross has a good sentence: ‘Performance is power’. So it is a kind of unspoken secret that Paddy Lowe is going to join Mercedes.

“If Paddy joins us, it’s going to be in a very structured way and Ross is the manager of his own destiny. Not only because of performance but because we respect what he has done in the last 20 years. He is a very valuable senior guy in Mercedes GP. Let’s see how that fits together.”

Brawn is a technical-based team principal who prefers to leave the business and commercial aspects of the team to others, hence his long link up with Fry. Wolff has since come in and taken on those duties, which allows Brawn to focus on the role he enjoys and does best.

“When Ross came back from sabbatical he did it as a team principal,” said Wolff. “Nick was like a foreign minister for the team, doing sponsorships, commercial alliances. [He’s] someone who I rate.

“But Ross was doing the whole lot; the job of team principal with relationships with FIA, commercial rights holder, FOTA as well as managing the company and being the leader at the same time as the technical leader. He was the most successful technical director ever.

“When I came in, we decided to split it and he dumped all the non-technical parts onto me. So I have taken all that burden away from him as well as the commercial stuff that Nick Fry did. I manage it on a day-to-day basis in a close interaction with Ross.

“From my side it’s a nice working relationship. We have a good discussion and a good split of what we do but we are having a laugh also. He said to me, please take this role, it’s not my world anyway.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Wolff also spoke about how the Mercedes are keen to use an “entrepreneurial” model for running its F1 team as the German automobile giant is keen to learn from the mistakes of other manufacturers such as Toyota, BMW and Honda, which were too corporate in their approach.

Wolff said: “I looked at all the other manufacturers who were in there and my analysis was that they didn’t give themselves enough time. You need to the resources, financials and human. Good people. You need to form the whole lot into a team and you also need an engine of course.

“Each of those teams was lacking one of the ingredients. Because of that they were pouring loads of money in and they were not as successful as they expected to be so they pulled out. If you are the BMW board or Toyota or Honda and the third time in a row they tell you ‘Next year is going to be the year’, after a certain stage you don’t commit the money any more.”

Instead, Mercedes will give Wolff the freedom to manage the company “the way an F1 team should be managed”.

“They have changed the model,” added Wolff. “They are not running it 100% themselves any more. They have taken in guys and given them the freedom to manage the company autonomously and efficiently, like an F1 team should be managed. So although the majority owner is a multinational corporation based in Germany, they are letting us do it, in their name – amazing – as long as we respect that governance framework of the multi national corporation.

“The board said to me, ‘try to restructure it, if you are not successful keep those bullets away from us because they are damaging the brand and if we are successful then it helps the brand’.

“They were giving me a long leash; I’m still on a leash. If you forget that, then it becomes dangerous. I’m on a dog leash but one of those where I can run 30 metres. And they understood that you have to give yourself time. Money cannot buy time. None of the other manufacturers gave themselves time, And time does not mean three years. It means ten years. So they have committed to F1 until 2020.”

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62 Comments
  1. goferet says:

    Yup, great to see Mercedes have committed to the sport for at least the next 10 years and it’s good on them that they’re learning from other teams mistakes.

    Judging from this interview Wolff comes across as an intelligent, level headed individual (possibly brought in to keep Lauda in check) just want this team needed.

    Yes, it was a master stroke to bring in Wolff for now we rarely hear from Lauda and if we do, the controversial statements are minimal.

    Now, with Lewis Hamilton on the team’s payroll, I can see a fruitful and advantageous partnership for all concerned at this team, they just need to keep working at it and one day, they will reap the harvest.

    Regards the question of Brawn, it’s heart warming to see him being given the respect he deserves by being told he will retire on his terms.

    So according to Brawn’s conditions, Mercedes better start performing wonders this season or early next season for this is the only condition that will keep him hanging about.

    For sure, at Brawn’s age, it’s just not worth it to go through the blood, sweat and tears without achieving maximum rewards for your effort i.e. World titles.

    1. A.Green says:

      Funny I see Totto’s statement like a dagger in the back of Brawn. With a statement like “it is up to Ross what he does in regards to retiring” Totto is basically forcing Brawn out of Mercedes.

      I think little of men like Totto who buy there way into life.

      1. JoeP says:

        “Funny I see Totto’s statement like a dagger in the back of Brawn.”

        ——->that’s exactly how it came across to me. I don’t much care for Wolff, after listening to him give an interview on one of James’s podcasts from last year, when he was still w/ Williams, talking about how great that team was and how much respect he had for Frank, who would always be the inspiration of the team or something like that blah blah blah. Wolff is first in line to push Ross Brawn out. I hope Brawn doesn’t go quietly, unless he struggles to speak under even more stacks of currency, in the form of a pay-off or somethin’.

    2. Wayne says:

      “(possibly brought in to keep Lauda in check)”

      Yes, note how there is no real mention of Lauda because no one has the first idea as to exactly what it is he does, apart from draw a sizable salary and attack people and situation through terrible media sound bites.

      I just hope that Brawn and his team get the credit they deserve for Mercedes’ improvement this year and it isn’t all stolen by Wollfe and Lauda. As JA said once before, and I am paraphrasing: The Mercedes board surely have enough intelligence between them to recognise that Brawn and his team are responsible for the turn around in fortunes this year!

    3. Sebee says:

      Because it was one of my better comments, time for a replay!

      >
      Toto – Mission Statement
      It’s gonna take a lot to take me away from Williams.
      I can do what a hundred men or more could never do.
      I claim the reigns down at AMG F1.
      Gonna take some time to do the things we never have.

      I don’t know if you recall, but we talked about Brawn. A sure way for Wolff to turn the entire team againt him would have been to let Brawn go – fire the guy who saved the team and all those jobs. He has no choice with Brawn, that man is a tactical genius in F1, his job security, even in pouring a perfect cup of tea.

  2. Clear View says:

    Nice to a slightly different approach from a works team. I have a feeling that there will be good things coming from Brackley in the not too distant future.
    I wasn’t sure about Wolff but he’s growing on me.

  3. goferet says:

    1950

    Alpha Romeo

    1960

    Cooper

    1970

    Lotus

    1980

    Williams

    1990

    Mclaren

    2000

    Ferrari

    2010

    Red Bull

    2020

    ???

    With every new decade in F1′s history having been won by a totally different team, one can’t help but wonder if the year 2020 will be Mercedes’ year

    1. Tom in adelaide says:

      Marussia :p

    2. egoFret says:

      Well done!
      Keep those stats coming!

    3. Stephen Taylor says:

      It’s Alfa Romeo

    4. Sebee says:

      I predict a first for F1, 2 decades of Red Bull domination! :-)

    5. Graham Passmore says:

      Except that those years closed decades, not opened new ones; but I’m just being a pedant. The statistic is interesting never the less & you could very well be spot on with the 2020 prediction.

    6. cometeF1 says:

      hi there, 80′s McLaren & 90′s Williams as I recall it. Thanks for the many fun facts. Marc

      1. goferet says:

        @ cometeF1

        No mate you’re wrong.

        In 1980 Alan Jones won the titles for Williams

        In 1990, Aryton Senna won the titles for Mclaren

  4. Schnell! schnell! says:

    * visions of toto running in the park wearing a lead on a reel, chasing cats up trees….*

    1. Random 79 says:

      Chasing cats up trees…Jaguars…Lauda?

    2. mhilgtx says:

      Funny!

  5. Danny Almonte says:

    Ross Brawn has made a few too many blunders. The ignoring of the exhaust blown diffuser and the hiring of Schumacher spring to mind. Both moves set the team back.

    1. Wayne says:

      Brawn has made too many blunders? He could blunder every day for the rest of he year and it would not offset his incredible achievements.

      And I don’t even agree that he has ‘blundered’. Mercedes is a GERMAN team, you surely recognise the pressure Brawn would have been under from on high to hire Schumacher? Plus, did Schumi really do such a terrible job – I don’t believe so? He was beset by failures left and right and had a terrible car.

      1. Sebee says:

        Yup. It was a chance for Schumi to do a 2-for-1 repay. Easy call from him.

        1.
        Repay Brawn for leading him to all those WDCs.
        2.
        Repay Mercedes for helping Schumi get into F1.

        Bonus – because Schumi always gets a bonus:
        Schumi didn’t have to site home for 3 years, trying to grow a perfect rose bush shaped like an F2002.

    2. justafan says:

      Whom would you have hired instead of Schumacher?

    3. Sebee says:

      Schimi joining likely solidified Mercedes’ commitment to F1 and convinced them to buy the team. Sure, he didn’t win, but Schumi was part of the foundation of this team.

      1. V. Mathew says:

        Let’s not forget again that the car Lewis Hamilton is driving right now had all the inputs coming in from Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg. Michael matched Nico last year and outdid him quite a few times – the car giving up on him quite a few times. He retired one year too early, after all the hard work of the previous 3 years.

      2. Ivan says:

        “Let’s not forget again that the car Lewis Hamilton is driving right now had all the inputs coming in from Michael Schumacher and..”

        +1! Same situation like in Ferrari. He developed the car in 2006 and Kimi became champion with that car in 2007

    4. Val from montreal says:

      Schumacher was the greatest thing that happenned to that team … Schumacher should of signed with Ferrari 3 years ago , or even Red Bull would have been fine … Let’s see how many wins Hamilton gets this year … Let’s see how many championships Mercedes wins these next 3 years …

    5. Zombie says:

      Yep..i’m fairly sure Schumacher with 7 titles,91 wins and 20+ yrs of experience in driving F1 cars had no valuable input for the team, and Lewis Hamilton would have taken 3 titles in those trucks that Mercedes kept producing from 2010 to 2012.

    6. Glen O'Donovan says:

      Ross Brawn has made a few too many blunders? With the (possible) exception of Newey, he is the most successful team boss on the pit wall!

  6. FernanDino says:

    Stunning. Mercedes are saying we want the laurels when we win, we don’t want the rotten eggs when we loose. Toto, please make sure these fly into your head.

  7. FernanDino says:

    Forgot to say: Toto & Lauda could have made this reasoning clear 6 months ago. Instead of letting every sort of speculation run wild.

    1. Stephen Taylor says:

      Who knows what will happen in the future and even as a Kimi fan I hope Mercedes have success In the meantime read this
      http://www1.skysports.com/formula-1/news/12516/8702761/2013-Spanish-GP-Practice-One-Fernando-Alonso-heads-Ferrari-1-2-on-drying-track

    2. Random 79 says:

      …and miss all the free publicity?

      Besides, if Toto had said this from the outset everyone would have been saying the same thing anyway.

      Damn, I seem to have contradicted myself…

    3. Lalit says:

      In my mind, that was the exact plan. Everyone talked about Mercedes for 6 months…. F1 is after all the best advertising platform.

      1. FernanDino says:

        Are you sure that “free publicity” (and I would add “bad talk”) about Mercedes does any good to its F1 playground? I don’t think so.

  8. Panayiotis says:

    James I’m off topic and I apologise, but I do not know where else to ask.

    I will be attending the Monaco GP, and just remembered that Fanvision does not cover F1 any more. So…. I guess it will be much more difficult to keep track of what is happening this year…

    My question is however, is there anything else in replacement? I guess the use of the iPhone F1 app is out of question (even if the roaming cost allowed it), due to lack of bandwidth around the circuit. Is there any radio broadcasting in English? Is there anything else to use that could help keep track of the action, either by listening to commentary or watching stats?

    Finally, is there any plan by FOM to replace Fanvision, or to provide something similar? Also, is there any prospect of having wi-fi available for the spectators (like it was offered at the Olympics)? Will there be enough bandwidth to cover the needs of teams/media/FIA and still accommodate the fans as well?

    Thanking you in advance and apologise again for being off topic.

    1. James Allen says:

      Not that I’m aware of and it’s a great loss

  9. Chromatic says:

    to be fair, Schumacher was clear in his own mind that he was still a winner when Ross hired him. Difference was this time round, his rivals had a more level playing field…..

    1. madmax says:

      If a level playing field is having the greatest formula 1 driver of all time make a comeback in his forties in an unreliable mid field car then your probably right.

  10. DC says:

    ‘Who am I to screw Frank Williams over for a better deal because I want to win and make money’???

    Disingenuous perhaps?

  11. Sebee says:

    If Ross retires, and as he said goes back to fishing, I feel sorry for the fish. Obviously he knows their strategy is all wrong.

    Which reminds me, how in the world did fish develop a taste for worms? Is this Brawn’s early work?

    1. Random 79 says:

      Conspiracy theory #7608?

  12. Fareed Ali says:

    The dreaded vote of confidence from the boss. In sports at least that is usually followed in short order by being showing shown the door.

  13. MISTER says:

    Wow! Can’t believe Toto actually said that.
    This can be very easily interpreted as a message to Ross directly, hinting they do want him out but nobody wants to say it.

    Very poor PR talk from Toto if he didn’t want to come out that way, but maybe he did intend it that way.

  14. Justin Bieber says:

    Who am I to push Ross Brawn out? Its not like I hired a high profile guy to replace him.. well yeah I did but you know..I’m not pushing him out, it will be his decision..

  15. Neil Jenney says:

    “The board said to me, ‘try to restructure it, if you are not successful keep those bullets away from us because they are damaging the brand and if we are successful then it helps the brand’

    …you’re not in Kansas now Toto.

  16. Ken March says:

    James… a quick question!

    I wonder if there is a typo in the 18th paragraph. Wolff is describing his analysis of other manufacturer’s F1 teams and we have him quoted as saying these two sentences:

    “You need to the resources, financials and human. Good people.”

    The first sentence appears to be missing a word, perhaps a verb. Is that the way he said it, or is it merely a typo?

    I’m having a hard time discerning the meaning of what he was trying to communicate there. Can you help?

    Thank you for this interview, btw. Good work!

  17. Kit says:

    Why do I get the feeling that he can’t wait for RB to leave?

    Call me cynical.

    1. Sebee says:

      If anything Wolff is frustrated at having no ability to make the call. If he does he becomes ‘evil” with all the staff who’s jobs Ross saved, and those Ross hired.

  18. Zombie says:

    If Ferrari fails to win again, Domenicalli deserves to be put on a desk job back at Maranello. If i was Luca Di Montezemolo, i would try welcoming Ross Brawn back to his original “home” as the new team principal .

  19. mhilgtx says:

    Well we will see if as some suggest that Toto is publicly putting Brawn on notice or if his characterization of his and Brawn’s relationship is true.

    I hope for Merc, it is true as Brawn is maybe the most impressive team leader out there for me to date.

    What Toto is proposing is the sensible use of succession planning. If so this Toto guy is pretty competent, if not then he might just be a failure waiting to happen.

  20. John says:

    Go back to Kansas, Toto.

  21. Thompson says:

    Ross Brawn has always for me been a man of dubious character ( during the Schumacher years from Benneton to Farrei including BrawnGP).

    But now imo he’s cool and doing a good job with Mercedes. Problem for Toto is Lowe who must be praying to the gods morning, noon & night for things to go pair shaped for the team and may well live to regret leaving Mclaren

    But with one driver 3rd in the Drivers championship, 2 poles from 4 races and a car that needs a small nudge in the right direction to have what looks like a potential 0.5 sec advantage on the field Brawn is in a strong position – stronger than Toto imo

    Yes Toto has a good head of hair but he is shrinking in stature as the team moves forward he has less cause to discuss Brawn with anybody, who is delivering. especially after the past 3years.

    My bet is Toto will go before Brawn.

    1. JoeP says:

      “My bet is Toto will go before Brawn.” <————dude, that's bold! I'd take that action!

      1. Thompson says:

        Lol….3 poles in 3 attempts with the added bonus of a front row lock out – now if they have resolved the rear tyre problem this weekend we may be in for a suprise.

        Hamilton eluded to what the problem was in an interview with Brundle the other week – hot air from the exhaust causing the tyres to over heat – o.k over one lap a problem over race distance.

        don’t be suprised to see that 0.5sec transfer to race day in the not too distant future.

        Thats when Toto, Lauda & Lowe will come under the kosh. Brawn was known as the bear ( as in soft and cuddly) but looks like the mans a real tooth chipper behind that slow smile.

        You watch.

    2. FernanDino says:

      Forget about that. Toto (BTW, what a ridiculous name…) is a shareholder. Maybe he’s already learning how to run the business with Mercedes supplying only the engines. Sort of Lotus-Renault-Genii style.
      I guess this is their Plan B. If success doesn’t come quickly. Unfortunately Mr Wolff does not have the deep pockets of Genii.

      The next question Toto should ask is: If Ross can’t make a winner, how could I?

  22. Grant says:

    Ross comes across as a warm, calm and likable fellow; so I like him.
    But it was the Team Owner at Mercedes I’d let him go (which would be strictly a business decision). H’s been given more than a fair chance to produce, and he’s failed. Now and then he’s ‘ALMOST’ there, but that’s just not good enough.

    Team up Lowe and Allison, and get rid of all the other chiefs….

    1. Pete_from_Nepal says:

      You would be hard-pressed to think anyone else could do Brawn’s job better.

      “Now and then he’s ALMOST there”

      After the atrocious cars of Ferrari and McLaren and Lotus these past few years, other than RBR, who else is really “there”?

  23. Gord says:

    Hopefully Ross Brawn’s recent lack of success at Mercedes will make people realize it wasn’t just Brawn who ensured Ferrari dominated for the first half of the millenium decade.

  24. Don says:

    How can Mercedes favor Toto & Lauda over Ross Brawn…. a proven master of winning constructors championships.

    I don’t like seeing Ross Brawn shafted / stabbed in the back by Toto & Lauda. I am the only one that think’s Lauda is very much ‘yesterdays man’ every failed F1 pipedream seems to have a pic of Lauda lurking in the background in a ‘consutancy role’

  25. Elie says:

    It’s very easy for people to sit and judge Toto when he’s the guy that just forked out millions to buy into the Mercedes dream. Ross Brawn has said many times he’s been grateful for the Daimler Board to allow him the space he’s had, but even since last year he knows he’s been on notice via Lauda- so this is nothing knew and had been discussed in the press many times since last year.

    It is really surprising however that Toto talks about the Daimler boards plans so openly and has humbled himself in the way that he’s been given a long leash. Reality is when you own a stake in the team and are an Executive Director you really don’t need to be so humble. He seems to be in the mould of Lauda in how he presents himself.

    It’s very clear that the incoming Lowe is a succession plan for Ross Brawn. I think Paddy Lowe will come in and absorb the technical management of Mercedes before becoming team principal. It’s not something that can happen overnight and Im sure Ross has been part of the process itself -then it just becomes a question of timing.

  26. Nick says:

    James – speaking of Mercedes, who was the guy that Niki Lauda was filmed with on tv during qualifying in the Mercedes pits with the big white mo? An exec from Mercedes HQ keeping an eye on things? do they have a view/say as to who stays/goes in the team?

    1. James Allen says:

      Dr Zetsche, the chairman of Daimler which owns Mercedes

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