Q&A WITH TOTO WOLFF
With just a few short weeks until the new F1 season begins we speak to Toto Wolff Team Principal of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport to gauge his thoughts for the season ahead.
Toto, the new Formula One season starts in four weeks. What are your expectations?
The 2019 season will be a new challenge for all of us. The regulations have changed quite substantially. We have to start from scratch, we need to prove ourselves again – against our own expectations and against our competitors. We start the season with zero points, so we’re taking nothing for granted and there’s absolutely no feeling of entitlement to be at the front. In fact, with the regulation change for the new season, every team can have a shot at the title and we’re seeing all of them as a potential threat. But we’re all looking forward to the challenge; we’re eager to hit the ground running in Barcelona, to benchmark ourselves against our own simulations and see if our predictions materialise on track. We will focus on ourselves, building up performance and hopefully be ready when the first really competitive session starts on Saturday in Melbourne.
You’ve met both drivers since they came back from their winter break. How are they doing?
Both Lewis and Valtteri spent the winter taking their minds off Formula One for a while, which is important. Lewis spent some time travelling. When we met after the winter break, he was refreshed; he’s extremely hungry and wants to start racing again.
Valtteri spent some time with his family in Finland, but he was quickly back into racing cars as he competed in the Arctic Rally. We had a good chat after the break; he was in a good place and has been able to fully reset after a season that was not always easy for him. Valtteri knows he has the full backing of the team to succeed and he’s excited to get back in the car and show his critics what he can do. I’m really looking forward to a strong competition between the two of them, racing each other hard and fighting hard against our rivals.
2019 is a special year for Mercedes in Formula One – it’s the tenth season in modern-day for the brand as a works team. How would you summarise those past ten years?
We’ve come a long way since 2010 when we re-joined Formula One with a Mercedes works team. We had a steep learning curve in the first few years, building the long-term capability of the team and continuously improving our performance. We saw the first good season in 2013, when we finished second. After that we’ve been on a winning streak with five consecutive double championships – an incredible success that none of us in the team, even in our wildest dreams, would have believed possible, especially since we were up against formidable opponents. The past ten years have really shaped the Mercedes brand as we set out every other weekend to proof our performance on track. We’ve enjoyed every moment of this journey, and you can tell from the numbers that the fans really enjoy the increasingly intense title fights as we see growing audiences on TV, social media and at the track.
2019 is also going to be the first year where Mercedes will compete in both Formula One and Formula E. What’s the brand’s approach to this new endeavour?Motorsport is part of the DNA of Mercedes-Benz, the first Mercedes ever-built was a race car. It’s what we do – we build road cars and we build race cars. We embrace the challenge in every category in which we participate. Formula E will be a completely new playing field for us. There are teams out there that already have a lot of experience in the series and experience is crucial for success in Formula E, so it will be a tremendous challenge for us. We are setting ambitious expectations but at the same time we don’t overestimate the impact we can have in our first-ever FE season. We will be the only car manufacturer that participates in both Formula One and Formula E and the learnings from both series will cascade into the road car world, making both platforms an important technology driver for the entire Mercedes family.