Toto Wolff has long been known in Formula One circles as a shareholder and director of Williams. He has become so much a part of the team that he has deputised for Sir Frank Williams when the team boss has been unable to attend races. But now he is leaving Williams to join a new Mercedes management structure consisting of Wolff, Niki Lauda and Ross Brawn, Mercedes parent company Daimler AG announced today. In his new role, Wolff will “take over the complete coordination of all Mercedes-Benz motorsport activities” and to that end, he is effectively replacing Norbert Haug who recently left the organisation.
Wolff’s new position includes an equity stake in Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd., the company that runs the Formula One team. Daimler confirmed that Niki Lauda, the former triple world champion who joined Mercedes late in 2012, will also become a shareholder. Wolff and Lauda will between them own the 40% stake in the company that was previously held by Aabar, but bought back by Daimler in 2012.
Wolff will leave his management role at Williams, but will retain his shareholding in the team, which does create the somewhat strange situation of his investments competing with each other on the racetrack. But it is clear that his focus will be on Mercedes. Wolff’s wife, Susie, has a year remaining on her contract as Williams development driver, and she will continue in that role.
Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Daimler AG, welcomed Toto Wolff: “As an entrepreneur, investor and motorsport manager, Toto Wolff has proven that this sport runs in his blood; at the same time, he is also well aware of the economic necessities of the business. With Toto Wolff, we have gained for our Formula 1 team not only an experienced motorsport specialist, but also a longstanding enthusiast of the Mercedes-Benz brand. Together with him and Niki Lauda, we will further develop our motorsport activities and guide our Silver Arrows into the next era.”
Williams team principal Sir Frank Williams commented; ‘’I would like to thank Toto for his hard work, dedication and commitment to the team during his time as a Director of the Company. He was a key support to me as Executive Director last season, deputising at a number of races when I was unable to attend. However, positions such as the one offered to him by Mercedes do not come around often. Toto has a long history with them and I certainly was not going to stand in the way of him accepting this once in a lifetime opportunity. Toto will retain his shareholding in Williams and will always have a place at Grove but make no mistake; we will fight him hard on the racetrack! I am sure he will be a strong asset for Mercedes and on behalf of the whole team I would like to wish him the best of luck in his new role. I’m lucky to have a very professional group of people around me and the Company’s Executive Committee will continue the work they have been doing to ensure a successful future for the business.”
For his part, Wolff seems eager to take up his new challenge at Mercedes: “Mercedes is one of the most important participants in motorsport worldwide. I am not only a big fan, but also a longstanding friend and enthusiast of the brand. I am looking forward to the challenge and, along with preparing for a successful racing season, also want to focus on the targeted promotion of new talent.
“I am leaving Williams on good terms and I will miss the team and friends I have made there. I’d also like to wish Frank and the whole of Williams the best of luck for the future.”
The Daimler press release made no mention of Nick Fry, who is currently CEO of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, but Euronews quoted a team source as saying Fry’s role “had not changed but was under discussion.”
Mercedes has undergone significant changes in advance of the new season, beginning with the signing of Lewis Hamilton to lead the team’s driver line-up, and now with a significant management restructure. It is clear that Daimler are not satisfied with the performance of the Silver Arrows over the past three seasons and are intent on turning the situation around quickly and emphatically.
Norbert Haug is set to leave Mercedes-Benz at the end of 2012, after a successful 22-year career as head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport.
Under Haug’s leadership, Mercedes-Benz has featured in top-level racing as a constructor and engine supplier and enjoyed considerable success, including six Formula One World Championships – as engine supplier to McLaren and Brawn – and 32 DTM titles. The only apparent failure under Haug’s leadership has been the return of the Silver Arrows to Formula One as a constructor – in three years the Mercedes Formula One team has managed only a single victory and has never looked like challenging for the World Championship, despite having the services of technical genius Ross Brawn and legendary driver Michael Schumacher.
Despite the underwhelming performance of the Formula One team, Haug’s achievements at the helm of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport have been significant and have established Mercedes-Benz very much at the forefront of world motorsport.
Dr Dieter Zetsche, CEO of parent company Daimler AG, paid tribute to Haug, saying, “Norbert Haug was the face of the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport programme for more than 20 years. For me, he put his stamp on a whole era and, as a highlight, he was responsible for the successful comeback of the Silver Arrows to Formula One. In the name of the Board of Management and the whole motorsport family, I would like to thank Norbert for his extraordinary commitment to the three-pointed star.”
Norbert Haug took his opportunity to thank Mercedes-Benz for a long and successful association: “I would like to thank the best car company in the world for more than 22 years, which never had a single moment without passion for me. I particularly wish to thank the Board for the trust and freedom they have always given me with all my activities. Since 1991, we had tremendous achievements and wins, for which I want to thank all of my colleagues. Unfortunately, with one victory in 2012 since founding our own Formula One works team in 2010, we couldn’t fulfil our own expectations. However, we have taken the right steps to be successful in the future. Our team and our drivers will do everything to achieve these goals.”