Toto Wolff: “There is not one Jesus that you draft in”

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Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says Formula 1 teams are making a mistake when they think a single person can turn their whole organization around.

Many have pointed to the culture-change Toto Wolff has implemented at Mercedes when he joined the team in 2013, as one of the main reasons for the organization’s unprecedented success. The Austrian, however, doesn’t want to take sole credit for it.

“We’ve spent a lot of time since I joined in 2013 to think about it and think about our values, about our objectives,” Wolff explained The Race.

“And about empowerment responsibility, accountability is very important – that you measure your own accountability.

“And it’s just a fantastic group of people. And we jointly have had our inputs in creating this mindset and culture.”

In an effort to detect and eliminate any problems, Wolff and his team decided to implement a ‘see it, say it, fix it’ philosophy, designed in collaboration with New Zealand rugby team sport psychologist Dr Ceri Evans.

“The feedback we got that sometimes people didn’t dare to speak up, didn’t have the open ear of their direct bosses for the improvement of process that they were suggesting or for a fault fix.

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“We tried to eliminate hierarchy in this process. That has actually done us very well in terms of reliability – knock on wood, we were among the best teams in the past few years, but it’s never down to one change in processes. There’s so many factors that influence it.

“And by the way, it wasn’t tree-hugging exercises, but we laughed about it. Our brainstorming, it’s actually an overwhelming intellectual waterfall that happens when we are together, and I learn so much from everybody that it’s pure enjoyment.

“I think this is the power of the organisation. There is not one Jesus that you draft in. And this is the big misconception in Formula 1 that decision-makers that own teams or run teams or OEMs, they think ‘I need to hire the best team principal’ or ‘I need to hire the best technical director or the best head of aero’.

“That’s not going to change anything. One person or two people are not going to change anything. You need to have an organisation that as a whole plays well on the various areas of competence.

“One analogy that I particularly like, I don’t know who came up with it, is we’re not a group of five-year-old kids playing football that run behind the ball bunched up.

“We are letting the ball run like in rugby. Because we all hold position. We play in the position we can contribute, the best to the team.

“And that is why we are so strong,” concluded the Austrian.

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