Toto Wolff seems to have some kind of magic touch. During his first year as executive director of Williams, in 2012, the performance of the team grew and achieved a first win in eight years. This year the Austrian joined Mercedes , a team that had scored points once in the last six races last season, and that’s vice-champion in 2013.
In his role as executive director, and as the team fought against Red Bull during the first half of the season, Wolff has seen all the ground gained by Mercedes: three wins before the summer break and seven pole positions. The fight is then mitigated against the untouchable duo Red Bull Sebastian Vettel, who has won all the races following the holidays, but Mercedes has nevertheless gain three places in the constructors’ championship between 2012 and 2013. This is a major accomplishment.
In an exclusive interview with ESPN, in which Wolff is back on his first year with Mercedes, he admitted his surprise to see the team come closer so quickly from the top.
“Knowing where we finished last year (5th), we could not imagine we fight for second place in the constructors’ championship this year,” he said. “It was beyond our expectations. It was very rewarding.”
For him, this rise is largely the work of boss Ross Brawn, who chose to leave the team at the end of the year : “I would say that Ross has initiated the process of change last year, recruiting the right people and changing a little structure. then I brought my small contribution when I got here. had to get the appropriate resources from Daimler, Ross and keep others away from the political aspects, be sure to have the right environment. I think the funds needed to fight at the top were not there before, either from Germany or seen our relationship a bit difficult with the commercial rights holder. Here the aspects that I’m busy. ”
Although it shows modest regarding its role in the progression of Mercedes, Wolff acknowledges that its efforts to increase the budget of the team directly contributed to performance gains seen in 2013: “The impact was felt fairly quickly because if you can work on a larger budget, it was also one of my top priorities, this allows you to have a faster rate of development, which in turn allows you to work on more things. ”
Season Into Two Parts
Following the first two Grands Prix of the season, Mercedes has launched a series of four consecutive pole positions, thus demonstrating that the W04 was faster car on a tour that Red Bull RB9. However, it was difficult to maintain that pace in race conditions, following victories at Monaco, Britain and Hungary, Mercedes has lost ground on its rival. For Wolff, the increase as the decline comes in part from the same source: the tires.
“We were very good when it came to run the tires on a lathe. This was not the case early in the season, if you remember Melbourne and Malaysia, but then everything fell into place. It was really good, but then (when changes were made to the tires for safety reasons, ie) we encountered some difficulties and have declined during the second half of the year. n We ‘have not won the pole position for Spa (although) we were not far from reach sometimes. ”
Three victories in 2013 (two for Nico Rosberg , one for Lewis Hamilton ) clearly among the best moments of Mercedes. At the other end of the spectrum, the team had to defend himself before the International Tribunal of the FIA after using his car in 2013 to conduct private testing with Pirelli. Despite the anger of the other teams and the need to defend themselves in court (judgment was mild given the circumstances , ed), Wolff says that this episode did not really hurt at work in the factory and on the track.
“Nobody is talking about this now,” he said. “We probably could have done a little better regarding our management of this situation, but it was not a major distraction. Finally, there was no afterthought. I also think that Red Bull, since she was very dominant in the second half of the season, may be shown more discreet and would not light fires. ”
Given the impressive progress of the team in 2013, and the resources invested in the next car and the new V6 turbo engine, is that 2014 could see Mercedes fight directly against Red Bull and break the stranglehold of the latter the constructors’ championship?
“No,” said Wolff. “I think if you take into account the constancy of performance of Red Bull last four years, so it will reference again next year. But it will not last. We are preparing everything and will depend on the evolution of our performance. I think we can fight for the title in two years. When exactly? I can not say. This would read a crystal ball. We focus on our work, the fact to resolve every detail. ”
“This is an organization on the move, there is nothing static. Can not say the date on which this will work. This is a process that is being put in place. Some ingredients are already there, we have for example two drivers who are exactly the people we want to have. ”
Mercedes has taken up the challenge of 2013, and the first year of Toto Wolff at Mercedes has been very positive, but the real test would be the championship 2014. There are major technical changes course, which will affect the entire plateau, but this time Wolff co-lead the team with Paddy Lowe . That the team stays on track or lose the ground is at the door we come knocking. His goal, of course, is that you go and see him to send congratulations to the other end of the year.