Toto Wolff exclusive: Mercedes F1 future, Lewis Hamilton and more
Watch and read a Sky Sports F1 exclusive as Toto Wolff reveals latest on his future, Lewis Hamilton's, plus pre-Domenicali talks
By Matt Morlidge and Natalie Pinkham
Last Updated: 30/09/20 6:11am
Toto Wolff, one of Formula 1's most successful and influential team principals of all-time, is weighing up his future with Mercedes after an incredible rise to the sport's dominant force. But why? And what next?
In an exclusive and candid interview with Sky Sports F1's Natalie Pinkham at the Russian GP, Wolff opened up about his future and how it could affect star driver, six-time world champion and record-chaser Lewis Hamilton - while also discussing his talks about becoming F1's top boss...
Wolff, Mercedes ready to 'mix it up'
Wolff has enjoyed unparalleled success in his eight years as team boss at Mercedes, with six consecutive clean sweeps of F1's championships since 2014 - and the team are well on their way to a seventh this year. Also a Merc shareholder, Wolff's reputation, both internally and externally, is sky-high.
But since the end of 2019, he has frequently admitted to be considering moving aside - while earlier this month he stated that running the team was "taking its toll" and that he didn't want to go from "very good, to good".
Wolff's contract expires at the end of this season, and he is likely to move into a new position with Mercedes.
"I think I'm going to mix it up a little bit," he revealed to Sky F1. "What I always said is you need to realise where the point comes from very good to good, because then you can't contribute anymore to an organisation's performance.
"I don't feel that this moment has happened yet, but in our team we look ahead. We look at senior leaders and the potential of young ones coming up. We don't want to create a bottleneck for talent to prosper and this is why far in advance we are already looking at every position."
He then explained: "It doesn't mean I'm quitting as team principal, but I'm looking ahead further down the road.
"I'm a shareholder and co-owner of the team so I wouldn't say that's it and I'm out of here, on the contrary - I'm just contemplating.
"But while the fun lasts we're going to stick."
Mercedes' long-term future has also been questioned in F1, although Wolff insisted rumours they could be sold to partners Ineos were "without any foundation".
What does it mean for Hamilton's future?
Arriving at Mercedes a year after Wolff and sealing five of his six F1 titles with the team, Hamilton has an excellent relationship with his team boss and they are the sport's premier double act.
But although Hamilton is almost certain to re-sign with Mercedes as he looks to break Michael Schumacher's records, he hasn't done so yet - with his deal expiring at the end of this season, like Wolff's.
Are their futures dependent on one another, and could Wolff's decision affect Hamilton? Wolff doesn't think so.
"We have something special because we have a very strong bond that has grown over the years," he said. "We had some difficult times, not sharing opinions, but we have somehow been able to overcome these difficult times and grow together and stronger.
"Both of us have realised that when push comes to shove we trust each other. That's very special. At the end of the day, I love working with him and I think he enjoys working with me and I think together - plus the other 2000 team principals [at Mercedes] - we can achieve a lot.
"But if one of us would call it a day for whatever reason the team is going to continue to perform. We would miss the best driver, clearly. On the other side if one of us, including myself, decides to go, the team is going to have the same performance, not an inch less. And I think we recognise that, although we want to stay together."
Wolff also reserved more praise for Hamilton regarding his record chase, with the Englishman one win away from Schumacher's tally of 91, and one title away from a record-equalling seventh.
"It is incredible. We don't think about it a lot and I think also Lewis pushes it aside a little bit because he would have never dreamt of achieving 91 wins, he would have never dreamt of having a similar career like Michael.
"Certainly for a driver it must be very emotional if you achieve that. I think this is why it doesn't have a lot of space in his head at the moment. But if he can do it, it's going to be overwhelming to be on the same level as the greatest driver of all-time."
Wolff, F1 talks and a Ferrari veto...
When he first revealed he was considering stepping down at Mercedes, Wolff was initially linked with replacing Chase Carey as F1's Chairman and CEO. That position, confirmed in Sochi, has now been filled by former Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali.
Wolff did have talks with F1 about it, although Ferrari - not wanting someone with such fresh Mercedes ties to run the sport - vetoed it.
"I was in a difficult position - because Liberty [Media, F1 owners] made me think about it! But I realise that I love the stopwatch and I like the competition. And if you are in that role that's obviously a totally different ball game.
"That thought didn't make a lot of sense to pursue because Ferrari made a clear commitment and said no, we would veto that. That's why at a very early stage these discussions had to stop. And in a way, they are entitled to have this position, they have that right so that's why it's OK.
"But having said that, I'm so happy in my role. I didn't dream about anything else because I have a dream relationship with Mercedes and all the people here. I think that we can achieve more together and develop the company to something that is more than a Formula 1 team, without ever forgetting that this is the priority to perform well. I see a great future."
He has also backed Domenicali as the right man for the job.
"I think Stefano is a great guy. He's a very strong personality, his integrity stands above all, he has seen racing from all sides - he was Sporting Director and he was Team Principal. He went through bad times and equally good times, he worked with Audi to come up with a Formula 1 project and became Chief Operating Officer of Lamborghini and made it a great success - so he's probably the best suited person to run Formula 1.
"We've texted and said let's develop that together to make it the best sport on the planet."