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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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1

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?

2

Dr Zetsche, the chairman of Daimler which owns Mercedes

3

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.

4

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’

5

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.

6

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….

7
Pete_from_Nepal

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”?

8

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.

9

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?

10

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

11

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.

12

Go back to Kansas, Toto.

14

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.

15

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 .

16

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

Call me cynical.

17

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

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!

19

“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.

20
Justin Bieber

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..

21

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.

22

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.

23

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?

24

Conspiracy theory #7608?

25

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

Disingenuous perhaps?

26

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…..

27

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.

28

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.

29

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

30

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

31

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

32

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.

33

…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…

34
Stephen Taylor

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

35

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.

36
Danny Almonte

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.

37

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!

38

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.

39
Val from montreal

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 …

40

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.

41

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.

42

“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

43

Whom would you have hired instead of Schumacher?

44

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.

45

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.

46
Schnell! schnell!

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

47

Funny!

48

Chasing cats up trees…Jaguars…Lauda?

49

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

50

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

51

@ cometeF1

No mate you’re wrong.

In 1980 Alan Jones won the titles for Williams

In 1990, Aryton Senna won the titles for Mclaren

52
Graham Passmore

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.

53

I predict a first for F1, 2 decades of Red Bull domination! 🙂

54
Stephen Taylor

It’s Alfa Romeo

55

Well done!

Keep those stats coming!

56
Tom in adelaide

Marussia :p

57

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.

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