• Home
  • Motorsport
  • Nine things you need to know about Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff

Nine things you need to know about Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff

Both Mercedes drivers didn’t finish the Australian Grand Prix, with George Russell crashing on the last lap and Lewis Hamilton having a mechanical issue.

Team principal for Mercedes, Torger Christian "Toto" Wolff, expressed his frustration with this result, with the team now being fourth in the constructors championship.

The Austrian billionaire has led Mercedes to seven drivers and eight constructors championships in the hybrid era from 2014-21.

Wolff has had to face new challenges since the major regulation change in 2022, where the team and his drivers no longer dominate the sport.

Here, Planet Sport’s Ayla Vaughan picks out nine things you need to know about the Austrian team principal for the Silver Arrows.

Wolff is currently the team principal of Mercedes

Wolff holds a 33% stake in the Mercedes F1 Team, sharing an equal stake with INEOS and Daimler (the Mercedes-Benz group) according to this article. Therefore, he is team principal and CEO of the team, a role which he has had since 2013.

As a leader of an F1 team, Wolff created a no-blame culture which means that if there is an issue, he is ultimately held to account. It also means keeping “calm and avoiding the tendency to blame someone when things go wrong”. 

Toto advises someone to ask “What has gone wrong?” instead of “Who has done wrong?” By avoiding the tendency to blame, the focus is kept on the issue, and not on the person” according to this article.

His beginnings as a businessman

Wolff started out as a businessman in the 90s, founding the investment companies Marchfifteen in 1998 and Marchsixteen in 2004, which were internet and technology company investments. 

Later in the early 2000s he invested more into motorsports, such as “the German HWA AG, in which Wolff bought a 49% stake in 2006, listing the company on the stock exchange in 2007,” according to Wikipedia

The company ran DTM (a sports car racing series) for Mercedes-Benz, as well as developing F3 engines.

Wolff was also Director and CEO of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team, but not team principal, who was rather his wife Susie Wolff. 

In 2021, the team won the drivers and teams championships in Formula E, and the Wolffs led their drivers to finish in first and second position in the drivers championship.

The racing driver

Like many F1 team principals, Wolff had his own motorsport career before deciding to lead a team instead. It started in 1992 with the Austrian Formula Ford Championship, where he drove in Austrian and German Formula Ford from 1992-94.

“In 1994, he won the 24 Hours Nurburgring in his category. In 2002 Wolff finished in sixth place in the N-GT category in the FIA GT Championship and won one race. He switched to the Italian GT Championship in 2003, winning a race in 2004 with Lorenzo Case, while also teaming with Karl Wendlinger in the FIA GT Championship,” according to Wikipedia

These accomplishments show his passion for motorsports and an understanding of racing drivers, since he was once himself.

“Wolff was runner-up in the Austrian Rally Championship in 2006, and winner of the 2006 Dubai 24 Hour,” according to Wikipedia. Since then he has not competed in a championship, but set his sights on getting into the world of F1.

First time in F1 with Williams

In 2009, Wolff bought a share of the Williams F1 Team, meaning he joined the board of directors. 

In 2012, he was named executive director of Williams F1, taking on a larger role in the team. 

BBC Sport reported he “will assist team principal Sir Frank Williams in his new role” which allowed him to learn from one of the greats.

At the time, his wife was also a development driver for Williams, which makes her the latest woman to drive in an official F1 practice session to this date. 

BBC Sport reported that team principal Williams said: "Toto's new role is about Williams looking forward and managing the successful running of the company."

Mercedes domination

In 2013, Wolff left Williams to become an executive director of the Mercedes F1 Team. He took over the coordination of all Mercedes-Benz motorsport activities. 

Wolff sold his remaining shares in Williams by 2016, which were acquired by Dorilton Capital in 2020.

Wolff and his drivers broke records with the pairings of Hamilton and Nico Rosberg from 2014-16 and Hamilton and Valterri Bottas from 2017-21. 

In 2020, Mercedes won its record seventh consecutive double world championship, showing how strong and dominant the company was in these years. 

The team broke many records set by Ferrari when Micheal Schumacher drove for them from 1996-2006, with Hamilton also breaking most of Schumacher’s records.

“2018 proved the most successful motorsport year in the history of Mercedes-Benz. The company won both F1 titles, F2 with George Russell, European F3 with Mick Schumacher, all three titles in its final season of DTM competition with Gary Paffett securing the drivers' title, both F1 eSports titles and numerous championships in customer racing,” according to Wikipedia.

Since 2014, “Mercedes has won 112 of 207 races under Wolff's leadership. The team has taken 120 of 207 pole positions, 74 front-row lockouts, and 257 from 414 possible podium finishes. Since Wolff joined Mercedes in 2013, the team has achieved a winning percentage of 51%,” according to Wikipedia

Wolff and his leadership contributed to this immense success, but it had to come to an end. 

READ MORE: Toto Wolff: Max Verstappen is Mercedes' first choice to replace Lewis Hamilton

Wolff’s post championship years

Following controversy at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where Hamilton did not win an eighth drivers championship, the team had to recover and get ready for the new regulations that were introduced in 2022. 

A big change the team made was replacing Bottas with Russell, who spent three years at Williams waiting in the wings to be promoted. 

This arguably ended up being the right decision as the Brit’s victory at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix in 2022 has been the team’s latest win to date since Hamilton’s victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in 2021.

Wolff has had to manage a team that no longer was in the fights for wins, but rather podiums or points finishes. 

They kept the same concept for the 2022 and 2023 car, but realised that the concept was ultimately unworkable. Wolff took responsibility for the wrong direction of the development for the car, hinting at his style of leadership that has been so successful.

After the 2023 F1 season, Wolff signed a new three-year deal to stay on as the team principal and chief executive of the Mercedes team. This clearly shows Wolff’s desire to bring the team back to fighting for championships and his belief that he is the man to lead the team into getting more trophies.

Stepping into academic world

In 2021, Wolff was appointed to an Associate Fellowship of the Oxford Saïd Business School to “bring his unique understanding of high-performance culture, team leadership and personal effectiveness from the racetracks into the classroom,” according to the University of Oxford

Wolff shared his thoughts by saying “to become an Associate Fellow at an institution as prestigious as Oxford Saïd is a proud moment for me” according to the University of Oxford

In 2022, Professor Anita Elberse published a case study titled ‘Toto Wolff and the Mercedes Formula One Team’ for Harvard Business School. 

Wolff visited Harvard to teach the case study to MBA students, which must have been another surreal moment. He was later named as an executive fellow at Harvard Business School, where he served as a guest lecturer alongside Elberse. 

The future Mercedes drivers 

When Hamilton announced his shock move to Ferrari for the 2025 F1 season, this meant that a seat opened at Mercedes. Rumours of who will replace the seven-time world champion have ranged from the rising Mercedes junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli to Aston Martin F1 driver and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.

Speaking to Sky Sports F1, Wolff said: "He [Antonelli] has just turned 17. He has won everything he needed to win in his rookie season, but I think he is going to be in Formula 1.” 

Mercedes might choose drivers such as Frederik Vesti or Mick Schumacher (who are affiliated with Mercedes and driving in sports cars this year) and have more F1 experience instead of the young Italian.

Wolff is in no rush to fill the seat at the Silver Arrows, but many drivers have called him which amused Russell as shown in this Instagram post from F1

Wolff has also been considering Carlos Sainz who is without a seat for 2025, despite his victory for Ferrari at the Australian Grand Prix. 

Speaking to Australia’s Fox Sports in Melbourne, Wolff said “I’m gonna make the play like a bride – difficult to get”, conveying that many drivers are vying for the seat so it must be a tough decision that needs to be considered for a longer period of time.

The man behind Mercedes 

Wolff has been married to Scottish racing driver and current managing director of F1 Academy Susie since 2011. They live in Monaco as many F1 drivers do due to its racing history. 

He has a son with Susie called Jack, who features on her social media accounts. Wolff also has two other children from a previous marriage. 

Wolff is fluent in German, English, French, Italian and Polish. Wolff was born in Austria to a Polish mother and a Romanian father. This shows where he got his first two languages growing up. 

He was educated in the Lycee Français de Vienne, a prestigious French school, where he picked up another language. 

Netflix’s Drive to Survive also shows him with his family at a home of theirs in the UK and later in Monaco. 

In the most recent season the Wolffs watched their son go karting, seeming to want to follow in the footsteps of his parents. 

The show also highlights Wolff’s rivalry with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, with this particular funny moment in the fifth season of the show.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Nine things you need to know about Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur

More Articles