The head of the Mercedes team, Toto Wolff, believes that the appointment of Stefano Domenicali as president and CEO of Formula 1 is a very right choice, and also said that he himself never applied for this position.
Question: I would like to hear your reaction to the news about the appointment of Stefano Domenicali?
Toto Wolff: Liberty Media made a great move. Most importantly, Stefano is a real person, he is distinguished by his integrity and knowledge of our sport. When he worked as a sports director and then as a team leader, there were both difficult and successful periods in his career, for some time he was involved in the Audi project in Formula 1, and as a result he headed Lamborghini, and under him this company achieved very high indicators.
Moreover, it’s not just about economic indicators: Lamborghini makes excellent cars. So, in my opinion, Domenicali’s appointment is a very correct choice.
Question: How well do you know him? How often did you contact after he left Formula 1 in 2014?
Toto Wolff: Often. I came to Formula 1 shortly before he parted ways with it, and our first real meeting took place in Monaco, when he filed a protest against our team because of the story with tires. We still cannot remember this without laughing. Although we are friends now, it all started with that protest. Since then, we have developed a great relationship, simply because he is a wonderful person.
Q: In what direction will Formula 1 develop under Domenicali?
Toto Wolff: Since he knows the world of Formula 1 very well, sports will be in the foreground. I think he will try to prevent the introduction of all sorts of artificial things into the championship. On the one hand, he is a supporter of pure sports, on the other, he understands perfectly well that the interest of the audience needs to be maintained.
Getting the right balance is very difficult. But I think he can do it.
Question: A new technical regulation has already been adopted, financial relations between the teams and Formula 1 have also been regulated – what are the priority tasks for Stefano to solve when he takes up his duties on January 1?
Toto Wolff: I think the range of these tasks is incredibly wide. Chase Carey managed to overcome all obstacles and achieve the signing of the Agreement of Accord, and this deserves special recognition. He had to do this in a difficult period for Formula 1 and deal with ten teams, each with their own interests.
It’s good that now this is over, and Stefano will be in a more favorable position: he will have to deal with sports issues, attract new sponsors, conclude contracts with TV companies, with race tracks, and also try to win a new audience, a new generation of fans, using all existing channels today.
Question: Have you ever proposed yourself for this position?
Toto Wolff: No, I didn’t. Everyone knows that I had preliminary discussions with Greg Maffei, CEO of Liberty Media, but it didn’t go beyond that. I have great respect for him, for his achievements, but I like the business I am doing. I realized that I really love competitions, races, everything suits me as the head of the Mercedes team.
In any case, nothing would have come of it, since Ferrari was against it.
Question: Do you really believe that?
Toto Wolff: I know it! But nothing, everything is fine. You see, they have such a right, and this must be respected. Perhaps, in their place, I would have acted the same. After all, the best professional should lead the sport, and now he is found – this is Stefano Domenicali. A very correct choice was made.
Question It seems that another of the main topics that are now being discussed is your future and the plans of Lewis Hamilton. How are the negotiations progressing? When will we hear some news?
Toto Wolff: We simply did not have time to thoroughly discuss everything, because a series of three races in a row took place one after another, and we were completely focused on fulfilling the main tasks, because we have to win both championships. But at some point we will realize that time is running out and we will have to sit down at the negotiating table!
If we talk about my situation, then it’s not only about the extension of the contract with the employer, with the main shareholder of the team, which is the Daimler concern, but also about determining the future prospects for the development of the team. We need to understand what expectations are associated with me at Mercedes, what I expect from Mercedes – while Ola Kallenius (the head of the Daimler AG concern) and I have a complete understanding, and all that remains is to put it all in the form of a document.
Question: Do you personally know exactly what you want?
Toto Wolff: No! I never know for sure (laughs), but I know for sure that I love these people, I love working with the Daimler board of directors, with Ola Kallenius, and I love racing. These are strong enough arguments to stay in the team.
I think I am responsible for everyone who works in it. At the same time, we must look to the future: on the one hand, we cannot weaken the leadership of the team, on the other, we do not want to put obstacles in the way of young talents. And I don’t want to be in some kind of exceptional position, all this applies to me.
Question this weekend, Lewis can catch up with Michael Schumacher in the number of victories – do you think this will mean the end of an era?
Toto Wolff: No. Michael’s star will always shine over us, over the entire Formula 1. But this is if we talk about the emotional side of the matter, and if we think rationally, then the records exist to update them. And even if some record seems indestructible, in the end a person will appear who can surpass it.
This may take a lot of time, 15-20 years. How many years did Schumacher’s achievements last? He won his seventh title in 2004, and only next year will Lewis have a chance to break this record, but it’s too early to talk about it. And yet, many years have passed, so it is time to surpass this achievement too.
And if you look into the future, perhaps in 2037 there will be a young guy who is now attending kindergarten or taking his first steps in karting, and he will be able to break the records of Michael and Lewis.
Question: Jack Wolff?
Toto Wolff: I hope not! This is too dangerous, I hope that my son will be addicted to tennis or football – something that I like to watch, and not be nervous, being in the pit wall or sitting in the stands.