Toto Wolff says the McLaren years were not “true Silver Arrows”

© Daimler AG

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says, while the McLaren partnership was an “important pillar of Mercedes’ Formula 1 story”, the “true Silver Arrows” did not return until 2010.

After pulling out of racing in 1955, Mercedes didn’t return to Formula 1 until the 1990s. In 1995 the manufacturer started a partnership with McLaren that ultimately brought three drivers’ titles (two with Mika Hakkinen and one with Lewis Hamilton) and one constructors’ title (in 1998).

Mercedes wasn’t only supplying engines to McLaren, but actually bought 40% of the team in 2000. This lasted until 2010, when Mercedes decided to start its own works team and sold its stake in McLaren.

During the McLaren Mercedes years, the team was regarded as the de facto Mercedes works team, but when Lewis Hamilton’s 2021 contract extension was announced, the press release said he has won six titles with the Silver Arrows, omitting his 2008 title win. Toto Wolff was asked why the team decided not to acknowledge this title as being won in a Mercedes.

“McLaren, back in the day, was a very important pillar of Mercedes’ story in Formula 1, no doubt about that,” explained the Austrian.

“But in the driver’s seat it was Ron Dennis that shaped this team, no doubt about that, and when Daimler decided to buy a team in 2009 it was the rebirth of the true Silver Arrows that we last saw in the ’50s and nothing has changed that from the perspective of the Mercedes works team.”

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With the announcement that the Mercedes F1 team ownership structure has changed and is now split three ways between Daimler, INEOS and Toto Wolff, Daimler now owns a little over 33% of the team, less than the 40% stake it had in McLaren back in the day. Wolff says this doesn’t change anything and the team remains a Mercedes works team.

“This is going to be ‘Team Mercedes-AMG Petronas’, partners that have been with us for a long time, with INEOS and other brands that have joined us being part of our future.

“The previous shareholding was 100 per cent Daimler and then it was 60 per cent Daimler and the Abu Dhabi partner. Then it was 60 per cent Daimler and 40 per cent between Niki [Lauda] and myself.

“Now we have decided that going forward team franchise values are interesting to a lot of guys and that is why we have this new structure of a third each.

“I have invested in the team and increased my shareholding from 30 to 33 per cent. Jim Ratcliffe [INEOS boss], probably one of the most visionary and financially astute investors, with his colleagues, has decided that Formula 1 team franchises are going to increase in value.

“For Daimler, owning 100 per cent of HPP [Mercedes’ power unit factory], it was a good deal and an interesting transaction. Going forward it is the three of us, I don’t think we are going to change that in the long-term.

“The team is called Mercedes and we have the commitment that it will be ‘Team Mercedes’. Even if you change the shareholding behind it, only the insiders will know that there is a different shareholding.

“But going long-term it is ‘Team Mercedes’,” concluded Wolff.

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