F1 Spotlight - Toto Wolff
This week's edition takes a look at the man in charge of the Silver Arrows.
Toto Wolff was born on the 12th January 1972 in Vienna, Austria. His mother was Polish and his father was Austrian but with Romanian heritage. His parents separated and sadly, after being diagnosed with brain cancer when Toto was eight years old, his father died. Toto now lives in both England and Switzerland (not a bad set up) with his wife, former racing driver and test driver for the Williams F1 team, Susie Wolff. Toto has three children.
Toto first became interested in motorsports when he was seventeen years old when he watched a friend of his competing around the infamous Nürburgring. Intrigued, Toto began his own racing career in 1992, competing in the Austrian Formula Ford Championship. In 1994, he won the 24 Hour Nürburgring in his category. He went on to compete in the NG-T category in the FIA GT Championship in 2002, winning one race. After a couple more years of racing where he entered the Italian GT Championship and won a 24 Hour race in Dubai, he decided to step away from competitive racing and moved on to something else that interested him: investment.
After studying economics and business at the University of Vienna, Toto set up his own investment company, Marchfifteen, in 1998 which was followed by Marchsixteen in 2004 when he decided to put all of his time into that side of his life. Reading the business world, Toto decided to first focus on tech companies as they roared into existence during the 1990s. The business developed strategic investments in medium-size industrial companies and listed companies. One of the key cogs of the future now came into play as one of the companies Toto dealt with was the initial public offering of HWA AG. This was the company that was responsible for developing and racing Mercedes-Benz cars for the DTM (German Touring Car Championship), as well as Mercedes-Benz’s successful Formula 3 engine programme.
A future Mercedes driver lurking in the background? Photo Credit: Mercedes Media Database.
Other investments include BRR Rallye Racing, one of the largest rally parts dealers in Europe. Wolff is also co-owner of a sports management company with former F1 driver Mika Häkkinen. The same company also now manages racing drivers, including Valtteri Bottas.
In November of 2009, Toto branched into Formula 1 and merged his passion for racing and investment together as he invested in the Williams Formula 1 team. After a few years there, Toto was announced as the Executive Director of the team in July of 2012. He was key in helping Williams win their first race in eight years at the Spanish Grand Prix that year with Pastor Maldonado at the helm of the race winning car. Williams have sadly not won a Grand Prix since then. In January 2013, Toto became a managing partner in the Mercedes AMG F1 team. This came after he bought a 30% stake of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.
By the end of 2013, he was appointed as the head of Mercedes Benz Motorsport. Working closely with Niki Lauda, he began developing the team, using all the valuable data and information that the team and their drivers, Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, had gathered for them since Mercedes came back into Formula 1 in 2010. Niki then played a big part in getting Lewis Hamilton to sign for Mercedes for the 2013 season and beyond.
Toto went on to assume full responsibility for the entire Mercedes Benz Motorsport programme which included everything from Formula 1 to Formula E and the Formula 3 engine program. In 2014, as the new Hybrid Era of Formula 1 got underway, Toto found himself in charge of what was to become the best team on the grid. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg fought each other hard all season long in the World Championship with Hamilton winning it at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi. Mercedes also won the Constructor's title, breaking Red Bull's dominant streak.
Mercedes went on to win both the drivers and constructor's championships for the next five years with Lewis Hamilton becoming one of the most successful Formula 1 drivers of all time. Nico Rosberg left the team in 2016 following his Championship win and was replaced by Valtteri Bottas.
Toto's achievements with the team were recognised in 2018, following Mercedes fifth back to back drivers and constructor's title when Toto was given the John Bolster award by Jean Todt at the 2018 Autosports Award. At the 2018 FIA Prize Giving Gala, both he and Niki received the President's Award, also given to them by Jean Todt.
Sadly, in 2019, Niki Lauda passed away and Toto has been committed to making sure that he is remembered within the team - something the rest of the team were all also eager to do. There is now a red star on both of the Mercedes F1 cars in his honour.
Under Toto's leadership, the Mercedes-AMG F1 Team has clinched six consecutive Formula One Double World Championships, winning a total of 98 Grands Prix - so far. The team has taken 117 pole positions and 143 podium position places. Toto is the only team principal in F1 history who has won more than five consecutive double world championships. When you take a moment to read that again, no matter your opinion on Mercedes, you can't deny that it's an incredibly impressive record and Toto has been instrumental in transforming it from a dream into reality.
Toto likes to downplay his successes so far, emulating Niki Lauda in that way who would always be looking to the next race as soon as the current one was over. He said recently that he hopes he can learn to enjoy winning in the moment a little more in the future and worry less but he doesn't want to get complacent when it comes to the races. He knows that it doesn't take much for a Goliath F1 team to lose its way - McLaren, Williams and more recently, Ferrari come to mind as examples of this. Toto doesn't want the same to happen with Mercedes and in terms of leadership, he appears to be doing everything right so far. His relationships with both Lewis and Valtteri are what you want from every team - the development with both drivers and the rest of the team has been mighty and darn impressive to watch over the last six years.
Wolff is also vice chairman of the Mary Bendet Foundation, founded in memory of a school friend who passed away. The Foundation strives to make life better for underprivileged children. Its projects include improving living conditions in day-care centres, dormitories and playgrounds; creating joyful environments such as rehearsal studios; supporting talent by sponsoring scholarships and inaugurating centres for blind and handicapped children to better prepare them for life in everyday society. I don't know how Toto finds the time to do it all but my proverbial cap is off to the man.
There is no doubting then that Toto Wolff is brilliant at what he does. I could see him doing a Ross Brawn and moving into the upper echelons of the FIA one day but for now, despite the rumour mill, I think he's happy where he is at Mercedes. They'd have a hell of a time trying to replace him with someone half as good anyway.
But what are your thoughts on Mr Wolff? Let me know in the comments below.