Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-magazin.com) Two questions and the first is for Toto. Toto, with the letter you received you received from the FIA a few days ago do you have the feeling that the FIA wants you to stop winning. And also, especially on the engine side, with the engine modes, do you think that there is the chance that the gap of one engine manufacturer will be even bigger because you can afford to run higher modes the whole race.
Toto WOLFF: I think the primary goal of the FIA was to implement the rule to better understand and better analyse what is going on with the engines. It’s a very complex method between the combustion engine and all the energy recovery system and I having one mode it becomes more easy for the FIA to really see if everything is in compliance. And then on the second point: it has always been the case in Formula 1 that pulling back the leaders, or what supposedly are the leaders, is something that is good for the sport. We see it very much as a challenge. We have a good quali mode and we are able to give it a little bit more power in that last session. But if that is not possible anymore because everything needs to be smoothed out over the race then it’s not a deficit for us but on the contrary, we think we can translate it into more performance in the race. That is something that is a great challenge for us that will take on once the rule is implemented.
Q: (Julien Billotte – Auto Hebdo) Toto, you have been very successful with Mercedes, which deserved to be praised really, but at the same time you have shares in Aston Martin and Williams, you’ve tried to broker peace between your Mercedes customer team Racing Point and its rivals. We’ve seen two Mercedes-powered, present and future, back down from the deal. You are unhappy with the Concorde Agreement and you are also managing driver in some way with the Mercedes young drivers programme. Do you understand that some people might have some concerns that you arte involved on too many fronts at the moment?
TW: I completely understand that if you have been successful over a few years and me as an entrepreneur, which I have always been, having interests in certain indirect relationships with players in the sport – this is annoying. If I were on the other side I would also pick on these things. There is one essential point with me: when I joined Mercedes, I decided, and this was an intense discussion with Mercedes, to do everything in the interest of the sport. So, to clarify: I sold the Williams shares but I got them back because they were held in escrow and the last payment defaulted. It’s not something that I wanted and I made it clear with Mercedes that my main priority with those shares is to sell them. So the process that has been started by Claire and the team is something that I really appreciate because it allows me to sell those shares. That’s number one. Number two: The Aston Martin investment is tiny. I’ve bought a few shares in a car company that has no direct shareholding with an F1 team but is simply doing the branding on the Red Bull car this year and on the Racing Point next year. I see it as a good investment – I like the products, the new management team is fantastic. And I have no board seat, which was agreed with Daimler, and no other involvement. I’m not a consultant, I’m not an executive and I’m just watching from the sideline what happens. And driver management. I’ve refrained from direct driver management. It’s all under the roof of MGP, of the Mercedes Formula 1 team. We have tried, like any other big team, to really look at the talent that is coming up from karting onwards, and like Ferrari, that has expanded its activities in the junior programme, and has some very promising young drivers coming up, we have done that a few years ago. Red Bull has done it. There is no conflict of interest. But I understand that it pisses some people off and sometimes the perception is something that is important to recognise and I do that.
Q: Toto, would you welcome softer tyre compounds going forwards?
TW: I think it’s the same for everybody. We have seen there is some variation in performance between teams that do very well in hot conditions and softer tyres and we have been a team that has been particularly good when it is colder on any kind of compound. And we suffered last week in Silverstone because I think we didn’t have the car in the right place. You could have seen with Charles in the second stint, and also with Max, that their cars just worked the tyres much better than we did. Pirelli is going to choose the tyres for the best show and we completely understand that and it’s up to us to manage the tyres in the best possible way.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Toto, the ruling from the FIA about the Racing Point transfer made clear that Mercedes – the January 6 transfer apart – hadn’t given Racing Point any new information therefore it wasn’t a significant breach of the regulations. This appeared to have been an area that some of your rivals have homed in on as being a possible sticking point, a couple of your rivals have questioned Mercedes involvement in this whole case. Is it frustrating that even when you have an FIA ruling that makes clear that Mercedes wasn’t in breach of the regulations you still have these sort of questions being asked by your rivals? Or is that just what comes with being the leader, having a target on your back?
TW: I don’t think it’s related to being a leader. I think Formula 1 has always been the competition on the track and also the competition off the track and as hard as we race each other on Sunday or on Saturday, we also fight the political game that is important and has always been the case. I think the Racing Point case is an opportunity for your direct competitors to maybe push us hard and that has always been the case. We have a clear position on the Racing Point situation and in that respect it doesn’t really bother us and it shouldn’t bother us because the FIA have made that clarification and the little nudging that is happening around that is something that is acceptable.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Toto, Lewis has been on the record as saying your future is key to his future. What are your plans for 2021? Will you still be the team principal for Mercedes?
TW: I really have enjoyed many years in Formula 1 in that role and the discussions that we are having are very good. I’m happy that my relationship with Ola is probably as good as it can be and we speak almost every day. There are many factors that make me want to stay in Formula 1. On the other side, it takes a toll and this plays into my consideration but as it stands, there is no reason not to continue with Mercedes and we will find out in which role.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines/Racefans.net) Toto, I wonder if you could clarify please what you meant on global television last Friday when you suggested that your competitor teams, your rivals, are up the arse of the commercial rights holder and whether or not that phrase is an offense on global television and particularly coming from a managing partner of a Daimler company?
TW: I respect, Dieter, that you’re the moral authority of the sport. What frustrated me was that we, as the teams, are not capable of really joining up in order to have a common standpoint, not in a way that goes against Liberty or FOM, not at all, but we are having these meetings and everybody seems to be interested in the same clarifications and in the same kind of mark-up for contracts that are necessary. And then we leave the meetings and on air, I hear opinions that differ very much of what was said within the meeting. And that is a certain frustration, I don’t know why that happens, I have clarified my position very clearly with the ones that I think are the ones that pick up the phone immediately once the meeting is finished, and for me, I have come to a point that if we’re not capable, as the teams, to have a joint standpoint for benefit of the teams, then we’ll have to go back and have our own.
Q: (Adam Cooper – motorsport.com, via email) Mattia and Toto: the FIA has told the teams that it plans to further cut downforce levels for 2021 on safety grounds. What are your thoughts on that decision and how disruptive will it be for your R&D programmes, given that it could take weeks or months to finalise the details?
Mattia BINOTTO: First, we simply need to remind that for 2021 the set of aero regulations have already been modified under the World Council for a reduction on aero performance because of the concern of the tyres. Initially we should have had new 18 inch tyres in 2021 which has now been postponed to 2022, so the tyres we have had in the past have been kept identical for 2021 as well. No doubt that by increasing the aero performance the severity of the usage of the tyres will be higher. I think that Silverstone, in that respect, has been a good example. I think there is nothing wrong in what happened to the tyres themselves but in the end it was simply the simple consequence of cars being faster and faster throughout the lap, through the circuit, so I understand that Pirelli is now concerned about that, I understand the FIA concerned for safety matters and I think that is a simply belief that, let me say, the changes already approved for 2021 will not be sufficient. In that case, we will do further changes on the aero for safety reasons, there is nothing we can somehow complain about. I think what will be the changes we are not aware of at the moment. Certainly it will impact all the cars, our R&D, but I’m pretty aware as well that it’s necessary for the safety and safety always comes first.
TW: I think Mattia has said everything that I would have said. We need to all be together in this and the cars, like Mattia said, have become faster than everybody expected and in that respect we can’t – how can I say? – expect Pirelli to catch up with new tyres and so, like Mattia said, absolutely we need to work together.
If you like SilverArrows.Net, consider supporting us by buying us a coffee!
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Can I return to Phil’s question to Toto? You said there’s no reason not to continue with Mercedes and we will find out in which role. Can you therefore say that there is a possibility that you will not be team principal of Mercedes next year?
TW: You know this is down to the discussion between Ola and myself. We want to do the best for the team and continue to see the team prosper and as I’ve said before, I really enjoy the role and my plan is to continue but I never want to be in a situation that you’re becoming from very good to good and try to play my part in the team and that is the discussions we’re currently having.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Just to pick up on that, Toto, it doesn’t sound like a big tub-thumping ‘I want to stay’, it just seems a bit of a vague response. If I could just ask it another way: do you plan to stay within the team on a day-to-day business? The other question I’ve got is that I understand you’re fairly close to agreeing the Concorde. Is that true?
TW: Yeah, I’ll answer the second one first. I’ve been pretty vocal after the meetings that we had within the team to say this is what we need and this are the clarifications we need in order to move forward but I’ve changed my opinion in Silverstone for exact reason I told you before: I don’t think that the teams will ever be united, everybody’s tried to achieve some little deals outside, there’s a blame culture in the media so we’ve decided to move forward with Liberty, I’ve had some very constructive discussions with Chase over the last weekend and most of the clarifications that we wanted to achieve have been discussed and I feel that we are in a good point to sign the Concorde Agreement and move on.
The second one, I can just repeat what I said before: I enjoy what I do, I enjoy it mostly because I love to work with the people that are in the team and there is no better place for me to be than in a meeting room with the engineers, to sit in the garage and watch the great work that is happening around. I enjoy the battles that we have off-track, I like to engage with our sponsors and partners and this is how I feel. What that means for the future is a decision that I need to take together with my wife and together with Ola and that doesn’t mean that I won’t be around as a team principal or I won’t be around in any other role but it’s just that I’m thinking about it.
Q: (Jon McEvoy – Daily Mail) Just about this staying at Mercedes thing; when do you think there will be news on that? Is there a deadline by when it needs to be resolved? Obviously whether Lewis stays or doesn’t is linked to that, so when would you expect to know whether you’re staying or going?
TW: I think Lewis staying at that moment is the best he can and it’s what he wants to do. He has the possibility of achieving great success going forward, winning more races and hopefully championships. It’s flattering that he says that it’s dependent on what I do but I think he doesn’t need me, he has a great team there that will always support him but as I said before Jon, I haven’t taken the decision yet, these are discussions that are ongoing and that are positive and I enjoy them. I don’t want to give it a spin that I am leaving because that’s not the case. It’s just that I’m in a moment of reflection, of reflection of where Formula 1 is heading to, what is happening around the Covid case and also personal reasons, that I’ve said before. Susie is in a good place, running a Formula E team and that means she’s away a lot. I’ve been to God knows how many races, I think 120 Formula 1 races in the last eight years and that is something we’re thinking about.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Toto, did the team get to the bottom of what happened with the tyres last weekend and what were the indications for the usage of the tyres on the long runs this morning?
TW: I like your little Japanese garden in the background! I think, what we’ve said before, as a team you develop the most on the days that are difficult, because you rarely go back from a race that you’ve won or where you’ve been successful and say ‘why did we win?’ That exercise happens, of course, but it’s never there with the intensity and the pain of losing and therefore the days we lose are the days we learn the most and we almost have this mindset that we enjoy these days, because it shows us where are our shortcomings are and where we need to improve as a team. We’re certainly far away from perfect and that ambition is within the team and when you hear our debriefs even after a successful weekend it sounds like everything has gone wrong and therefore I enjoy – me and my colleagues enjoy days where we are beaten because this is the point where we need to develop and hopefully here in Barcelona we have another chance to prove whether we have understood. I think that the groups around our guys in Brackley have done a really good job, I think the analysis that I have heard sounds right and in the first free practice we have seen that we haven’t struggled with the tyres, we were still competitive on a single lap so we need to prove that on Sunday and I’m very curious to see that.
You can watch the full conference below.