Toto Wolff at the Austrian Grand Prix Friday Press Conference

Toto Wolff was present at the Austrian Grand Prix Friday Press Conference and talked about the ‘new normal’, DAS, Ferrari and Red Bull’s pace and more! Here is the transcript of his answers.

Q: (Raphaelle Peltier – AFP) This is for everyone. How are your teams adjusting to the new normal and new rules in the paddock?

Toto Wolff: I have been for quite some time in Austria and all this set up here seems very weird in a country where there are no cases anymore, or at least around here. I understand that in the UK it’s very different. I hope that based on my experience in Austria that this is the start and it’s good that we are racing again. Even though it’s weird that we are sitting 10 metres apart wearing surgical masks on our noses but if that is the thing we need to do in order to get racing then that’s OK. Obviously the work in the garage is impacted but nevertheless it’s about lap timer and all of us are in the same position so it’s a little bit about improvising and getting the job done.

Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Christian, we know that Red Bull planned to protest Mercedses’ DAS system in Australia. Has anything changed in your thoughts about that between Melbourne and now? Are you still planning a protest and for Toto are you completely confident in the legality of the system?

Christian Horner: First of all, it’s a very clever system and so all credit to the ingenuity behind it. I think the fundamental question for us is does it comply with the regulations in what is a fundamentally grey area. So we do want clarity on it because it does have an impact regarding the rest of this year. It’s something that’s been outlawed for next year but the question is: is it right for next year. So they’re the questions that we’ll be asking of the FIA through the necessary channels.

Q: Toto, your thoughts…

TW: Yes, I respect Christian’s position. I mean a clarification is always good. We think we are on the right side. There was a lot of talking and exchange with the FIA, that is the reason why we have it on the car. So we will both bring our arguments forward and then, let’s see.

Q: (Christian Hollman – DPA, via email) Toto, how far are you along in contract talks with Lewis and Valtteri? What is your timeframe for your decision for your driver pairing for next year? And on what will you base your decision?

TW: I think simply based on the fact that we haven’t seen each other a lot, we have been keeping the discussion up, we are in a position of trust with both of the drivers. You could say that in Formula 1 it doesn’t mean a lot – but it does in our team. I guess that we will do the next steps soon but I don’t want to commit to any timing because I don’t want to answer questions every single race weekend about why the contracts are not done. There is no urgency in the matter. All of us want to do it and when the time is right, we will announce it.

Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) Question to all three gentlemen. Charles seemed quite off the pace this morning and Mattia has already admitted that there will be a new aero package for the team in Hungary. Do you think they are really starting the season on the back foot or they are bluffing?

Zak Brown: I think it’s too early to really know. We’ve done a little bit of winter testing and one FP1 session, so I think it would be premature to draw any real conclusions as to their real pace.

TW: Yeah, I would pretty much… nothing to add to Hannibal Lecter’s answer!

Q: What was your assessment of Ferrari’s pace after winter testing?

TW: It’s very dangerous to assess the pace in winter testing because it’s Barcelona and it’s February and you could see in 2019 Ferrari was really leading the charge and then struggled in the first few races – so I don’t want to find ourselves in a trap of thinking you’re competitive. And the same applies to this morning’s performance. I don’t think Red Bull or Ferrari have even switched on the engine, in a corner they still look pretty strong. Bit of a different aero configuration also. We shouldn’t be analysing any performance after FP1. I think it needs tomorrow to really make a solid first assessment.

Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Question for Toto. If I can go back to the DAS question. Is there any concern that after all the excitement of finally getting back on track and having a race and Formula 1 starting up, that come Sunday we could be bogged down in a protest and nobody really knowing who’s actually won the race – if you win it.

TW: I think, against what you would expect, all teams are pretty much aware that we are in a sensitive situation with going racing. It’s the first race and on one side, it’s fair enough to seek clarification; on the other side we are aware that we don’t want to end up with a big debate on Sunday night. I think Red Bull, I think Christian is going to take the right actions. You know, controversy and different judgement on engineering innovation has always been part of Formula 1. This is what’s to be expected in a way. It’s part of the racing.

Q: Toto, do you expect Red Bull to be closer this year than they were last year?

TW: Well Red Bull was close last year, they had a little bit of up and downs but in some of the races they were more competitive than us. Alex Albon is going to get more comfortable in his car and we rate him and Max, nothing we need to add to his potential. So I very much expect Red Bull to give us a run for our money. And vice versa. And this, I think, is what F1 needs.

Q: (Abhishek Takle – Mid Day) This is to everybody. The crisis shines a spotlight on the importance of teams being profitable operations. Do you think the returns on investment would be looked at differently going forward, not just in terms of the marketing returns but actual, real profit? Thank you.

TW: Yuh. Our situation is a little bit different to McLaren, albeit that the shareholders of McLaren seek value on their investment but for us, Mercedes, and also speaking also for our partners, the return on investment seems to be right and Formula One is probably one of the best marketing platforms in the world. We’re able to generate return on investment of up to twenty times the investment of Mercedes and its partners and our partners, so from a marketing standpoint it has always made sense and does make sense. But now there’s an additional angle that is being added, but with the cost cap, as much as we would have liked it to stay on a higher level because our organisation runs smoothly and restructuring is always difficult, as Zak referred to, there will be difficulties for us in restructuring but at the same time it leads us to a situation where our P&L will completely change from a deficit – not a big deficit, but still a deficit – it will change to a profitable P&L which is very important for the long term sustainability of the sport. I think we’ve seen that there are team owners and shareholders in the sport that are in there for the love of the sport and for the marketing return but in order for us to really prosper you need to post a profit like any normal company out there and then more people will be interested in owning teams or with owning part of a share in the Formula 1 organisation itself because it is a solid business kit and we are – as much as it’s difficult from the restructuring point of view – we are looking forward to become a profitable franchise.

Q: (Lawrence Edmondson – ESPN) Going back to Australia, there were still lots of questions about the legality of Ferrari’s engine the previous year and also questions about the settlement which was reached with the FIA and Ferrari. I know, Toto, Mercedes have kind of backed off from that but for the other two team principals, are you still pursuing that, are there still questions that you need to be answered?

TW: I want to précis exactly what you said, Lawrence. We didn’t back off. We decided in Melbourne that for the start of the season this additional controversy plus Corona starting to get really bad in Italy, was not the opportune moment. I would very much agree with what Christian and Zak said: in this day and age, transparency is extremely important and good governance – it’s extremely important. And it may well have been good governance but if you don’t know, it’s difficult to judge so in the position that we are in is that we are monitoring the situation. We are not happy about last year. It has stretched all of us to a point to be competitive against Ferrari where it was difficult to cope and therefore let’s wait and see how the season starts and gets going and we will then reassess for ourselves and probably with the other guys who were upset.

Q: (Adam Cooper –, via email): Toto, how much of a loss is Andy Cowell from the Mercedes engine programme, and are you confident he’s not going to a rival team or manufacturer?

TW: Well, it’s always a loss when somebody’s retired that is calling the day but I think we respect everybody’s decision and there is something within our organisation that we very much live to is that if you start to see that you are becoming from great to good or energy levels start to dip low that you can take a decision, and Andy very much wants to take a break. He’s involved in a Daimler project that is very exciting and then we’ll take the decision what to do. But we’ve shown in the past that we have always been very good and always on the front foot by succession planning. In the past, great people have left the organisation: Ross Brawn, Paddy Lowe, Aldo Costa, Bob Bell, Mark Ellis and they’ve been replaced from within with very strong next generation engineers and the same is happening at HPP. We have a fantastic board of directors there, led by Hywel who I personally rate very much as an engineer and from his personality standpoint, so I think we’re going to be OK. Whether Andy decided to join somebody else, that is very much his call. I think at the moment he is well established and recognised in the Mercedes family and I hope that is going to continue.


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