Toto Wolff was grilled by the British media today after the announcement of his appointment at the head of Mercedes Motorsport.
“It has happened pretty quickly,” he said. “I have been involved with Mercedes for many years and I have known the people concerned for quite some time, but this happened a couple of weeks ago. It started with a conversation about Mercedes’s situation in F1.”
Wolff said that he was “carefully optimistic” that the team would do better in 2013 than it has done in recent seasons, but admitted that he had not yet been to Brackley, nor talked to the driver.
“I cannot really talk about structure,” he said. “I need a bit of time to understand the structure there. At this stage it would be foolish to talk about replacing anyone.”
There has been speculation that the team is after McLaren’s technical chief Paddy Lowe and the suggestion is that he might replace Ross Brawn.
“I read it in the paper,” said Wolff. “There is a lot of speculation, but there is nothing that I can tell you.”
Wolff explained the team structure, saying that Niki Lauda will be the non-executive chairman, while the executive positions will be held by him and Ross Brawn. The future of Nick Fry as the Chief Executive Officer of the team has also been called into question.
“Nick has been handling commercial affairs and we are looking at that situation,” said Wolff.
Toto confirmed that he and Nick Lauda have acquired shares in the team, but spoke of Mercedes’s commitment to F1 in the long-term. Wolff said that there are no silent partners in his shareholding (as there have been in other deals).
“I’m afraid I am alone,” he said.
He also said that he was dropping all of his other activities in order to concentrate on the new job and said that he will be spending more time in the UK as a result.
“Daimler one of best brands in the world, “ he said. “They build fantastic cars and they came into F1 to be successful. The board expects the team to be at the top and this is what we will be workjng on.”
More cynical voices in the F1 world have suggested that this may end up being the start of the end for Mercedes as a Formula 1 team owner, unless the team does make a breakthrough. Selling equity to racing people will make it easier for the company to slide out of team ownership and return to being just an engine manufacturer if there is not success.
On other matters, Wolff confirmed that Mercedes is testing Robert Kubica in a DTM car this week to see how he does, but said that Robert is still not 100 percent fit yet and is unlikely to appear in an F1 car at any point in the near future.
“Let’s see how it goes,” he said. “I think there are some physical constraints for him in a monocoque chassis, we would all love to see him back in an F1 car, but it is definitely too early.”
Wolff said that there are no plans for Mercedes to take on Timo Glock, but believes that the German driver could appear in one of the rival DTM teams.”