Toto Wolff at the 2023 Singapore GP Friday Press Conference

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff attended the Singapore Grand Prix Friday Press Conference. Here is the full transcript.

Q: Toto, coming to you now. Max Verstappen thinks Red Bull could struggle this weekend. If that is the case, do you think Mercedes are in the mix for victory?

Toto WOLFF: I think I don’t want to predict something and then not meet our own expectations. It’s about delivering a solid job leading up to Qualifying, and in the past we’ve got some really good Singapores, and then we’ve got worse Singapores. It’s going to be very close between, I think, four or five teams in the front.

Q: As you say, the team’s fortunes have fluctuated here in the past. You’ve won races but other weekends haven’t been straightforward. What is it about this track?

TW: It is different to all the other ones. I think tyre overheating plays a massive role: you can get it right in Qualifying but then suffer tremendously in the race, extracting that peak grip performance in that lap. And, if you’re just a millimetre out of the window when somebody’s in, then you’re just being beaten.

Q: And what about your car in high-downforce trim? Do you feel you’re in better shape this weekend than you were in Monza? 

TW: I wouldn’t want to talk about high downforce and low downforce, because it’s more nuanced like this. Certainly, looking at the past races, we were better when it was about high downforce, rather than the top speed circuits – like Monza and Spa. But it’s a fight every time you come to one of those races, it’s a fight, starting from the get-go and that’s why you can’t just predict we’re going to be good here.

Q: George was in here yesterday, and he was telling us how straightforward his contract negotiations were with you. But one thing he couldn’t tell us is why two years. Why did you settle on two years for a contract extension?

TW: With George, we have such a long-standing relationship, since his junior days, and there is no reason why it’s another ten years. We’ll see next time around.

Q: Well, how about Lewis. How straightforward were the negotiations with him?

TW: Well, with Lewis, the negotiations with Lewis are always different because we talk when we see each other and then sometimes we both disappear into different parts of the world, and then it’s tricky – but we were pretty clear with the main terms before the summer, and then obviously you just need to put them in a contract with lawyers. That can be more tricky.

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Q: Does the deal get harder with him over the years – or does it get easier? How much copy and paste is there?

TW: Well, Lewis is a very competitive person, in the car and outside. He has a good commercial brain and now he is into the last phase of his Formula 1 driving career, there are other things that need to be evaluated. But it’s always been… as long as both want to work, he wants to be in the car and we obviously want to have him with us, there’s no reason… we’re always going to come to some agreement.

Q: Final one from me, you said you weren’t going to start on 2024 until you fully understood this car. Are you now at that point?

TW: Well, I’d wish that was the case, but this is still for us a little bit of a surprise box. Every learning that we have this year is going to be valuable next year – but obviously nobody is working on the current cars anymore.


Q: (Jon Noble – There’s been lots of rumblings all season about the cost cap, but in the end, everyone was given the all clear. Were you surprised that was the outcome? Do you have complete faith in the robustness of the policing? And do you think into ’23 things could get more complicated once TD45 comes into force?

TW: At the end, the result was that all teams got the certificate of compliance and in that respect, that’s good. Good to know. It seems everybody has been checked thoroughly. And all possible, you know, ideas in the background have disappeared because they got the carte blanche, or the ones that were maybe suspected to not have passed it. So, I think we just need to get on with the rest now.

Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Toto, a question for you. You mentioned the long-running relationship with George. You’ve spoken about that first meeting where he turned up with his ill-fitting suit and the PowerPoint presentation he gave you. What are some of the thoughts from that session? What really struck you about him, as I think he was 16 at the time, to now see him become a Mercedes Grand Prix winner? 

TW: So it was a funny situation, because he came in in his sharp suit and I expected him to say, well, you know, what do I need to do in order to be part of the Mercedes junior team? And that’s actually not the question he asked. He said he is running with the Volkswagen engine in Formula 3 and he feels good about it because it’s an English team and that’s why he wants to stay and whether it would limit his chance to actually be part of the programme in the future. And it was so straightforward that I liked it. And then obviously the famous PowerPoint presentation on why betting on him was the right thing to do. For a 16-year-old, that was pretty impressive.

Q: (Adam Cooper – It looks increasingly likely that the Andretti project will get a green light from the FIA in the coming weeks. It then moves on to the CRH for evaluation and a decision. Now it looks like it’s closer to becoming reality. What are your thoughts on that? If you had a formal role in the process, what would you say to Stefano? And secondly, are you resigned to the fact that you’ll start with the 200 million dilution fee or would you still want to see that adjusted?

TW: I think why Formula 1, and the team. have survived in the last years is because we all stuck together: the FIA, FOM and the 10 teams. We need to protect the sport, we are holding this sensitive sport that’s growing at the moment in our hands and that’s why the right decisions need to be taken, all of us together when it comes to – let’s say – a mindset and then obviously the FIA and FOM, when it comes to these decisions, because it’s out of the teams’ hands. But I would hope that Mohammed Ben Sulayem and Stefano will take the right decisions for Formula 1.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Toto after the last race you received a bit of criticism for your comments about Max and his record. I just wanted to know, do you have any regrets about what you said or do you stand by what you said?

TW: Well, obviously when you look at the comments, in the circumstances you can think was it the most intelligent thing that I could have said and maybe not? But it’s always been my mindset. It is something that I’ve taken from Niki. You know, Niki gave his trophies away to get a free car wash. You won’t find a lot of memorabilia in my places either because those numbers never mattered for the two of us. Formula 1 is a meritocracy and I said it often during this year that only the best will win World Championships and you need to recognise what a great job is being done there and at the end they will take another big trophy and that is something that’s the most valuable: the best person in the best car wins the World Championship.

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Toto and Zak, by association, your driver and your team are represented or by association with Massa’s legal case. I just wondered if you think any good can come for Formula 1 if this keeps going and progressing in courts and just keeps on pushing on? 

TW: Well, interesting to follow. Clearly not something that anybody saw coming. The rules are pretty clear in Formula 1. Is there a civil case behind it? It will certainly set a precedent, whatever it is. Yeah, we’re looking from the sidelines with curiosity.

Zak BROWN: Yeah, it was obviously well before my time. I was actually at the race and yeah, we’ve not been contacted. I’ve not been asked about it. It’s the first time I’ve been asked about it so it doesn’t really involve today’s McLaren. So (I’m) a little surprised that it’s come up now. Not sure what’s triggered it now but we’ll just wait and see if it develops further.

Q: (Adam Cooper – Any thoughts on the situation that Helmut’s got himself into in the last couple of weeks? And was it a valuable lesson for all of you in terms of being ultra-careful what you say in public to the media?

TW: Yeah, we’re laughing about South America but it’s a topic that’s not at all funny and it’s not only what has been said but it’s the mindset that you can even come up with these things and that hasn’t got any place in Formula 1, that’s not something that should have been said in the past, and certainly not now or in the future. We all know that we need more diversity in Formula 1, more inclusion, and the team’s do their best to create an environment where this is possible. And obviously statements like this don’t shine the light on Formula 1 that Formula 1 deserves for all of their activities.

Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) A question to Toto just to follow up. Something you said in your answer about the thing that Felipe is doing, the legal case. You mentioned the possibility it could set a precedent. Obviously, with what happened to Lewis in 2021, that was the final race of the season. It was something that directly influenced the outcome of the World Championship, and it was something that was out of everybody’s control and related to something that happened with the management of the race. So is that the kind of thing that could be reopened because you as a team made a conscious decision not to pursue that when you had the opportunity to do so in the days after Abu Dhabi? 

TW: And the FIA commented on the 2021 race with a clear statement. So that’s why we’re looking at it with interest.

Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) A question for all four of you, Singapore is one of the most glamorous locations on the F1 calendar. We’ve got Vegas coming up, obviously, which should probably be another level. How important to F1’s identity is this glamour image? It has been such a rich part of its history. And do you see it as being a big thing moving forward to double down on?

TW: Yeah, Singapore is great. I mean, the night race was invented here, isn’t it. And it shows the interest, also, of our partners. We are flat out with events and presentations. And it shows that it hasn’t stopped. In Singapore, every time we come back, it is one of the most important events in Formula 1.


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