Somewhat bemused I have to write about the thinking behind Mercedes’ long and impassioned letter to fans explaining the plight of a race team that has dominated everything in F1 for the past two years, and right now one of their guys is having some apparent technical issues while the other is not.
This is a team that is run by a rookie in the form of Toto Wolff, but has the input of a wily and respected veteran in the form of chairman Niki Lauda as well as the presence of a character with huge F1 pedigree in Paddy Lowe.
Honestly I cannot imagine the latter two penning or even condoning the letter which was released in the aftermath of the Russian Grand Prix weekend which we published here>>>
So I am presuming it has got to directly come from the desk of Toto, and of course if he did not write it himself he must have given the nod before it appeared on the team’s website, and from there went viral.
Let’s be honest and acknowledge that Toto is a business genius to have orchestarted the coup d’etat at Mercedes which put him at the helm of all their motorsport activities including the celebrated F1 team, and then setting the groundwork and human resources to turn the F1 operation into a tour de force worthy of the original creators in chief: Ross Brawn and Norbert Haug.
So he definitely ticks the box of business mega-guru and for that immense respect to him.
But Toto is also the guy who sought, very publicly, a sports psychologist when the Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg rivalry fired off. hankfully both drivers scoffed at that idea and it was shelved with disdain it deserved.
Not long afterwards Wolff went publicly seeking council from Alain Prost, somehow believing that the Frenchman’s conflict with Ayrton Senna had some kind of lessons for him top into in managing the Rosberg vs Hamilton feud.
Two moments of (cute) ignorant innocence which can only be put down to inexperience of management at this level. After all Toto only started in his post as Merc motorsport boss in 2013, this is only his third year running a F1 team.
So when he put his foot in it as in the above-mentioned instances he was really a rookie and it was forgivable because his previous F1 experience was limited to the back of the Williams pit garage as a shareholder with the team. No silly decision making or letter writing in that role.
Today he is a ‘veteran’ of three years at the helm of the most dominant team in the sport’s history. Four world titles in two years under his command. Surely he has moved on?
Not really, because now this letter…
Apologies, but from where I stand this is very naive. Why make a big fuss about the whole thing? Just deal with it internally and forget what others think, especially the fickle fans who these days simply cry conspiracy to get social media hits and sadly know very little about the sport.
For sure fans are important in the bigger picture of F1, but they should not influence how a team is run or how teams react in times of duress, if you can call this that.
I just cannot imagine Colin Chapman, in the heyday of Lotus, writing a letter to fans because strict team orders were in place so that Mario beat Ronnie and some of us lamented that fact.
Or Ron Dennis seeking expert psychologist guidance on how to handle the war between Alain and Ayrton, then penning a lengthy public excuse on how the team is suffering internally.
Or Frank Williams explaining to fans why he allowed world champion Nigel to leave the team and go to America!
Or Jean Todt dictating an explanation, to the Ferrari tifosi, detailing and justifying why Schumie always got preferential treatment over Rubens.
That’s why this episode is so laughable and invariably flags the question: why did Mercedes feel this necessary? Which in itself just fans the flames of conspiracy for the armchair Twitterers or Twits or whatever they are called.
Our readers’ responses highlights the actual damage done by the ‘fix-it’ letter:
- The only way this is going away is for Lewis to win the next three or four races all of a sudden – Nowhereman
- A lot of words that say nothing – Homo Sapiens
- Given the outcome on track, it is a credit to Hamilton’s self-control, that he has not yet lost his temper in public – Nanoflex
- The lady doth protest too much, me thinks – Shoki Kaneda
- Makes you wonder why even address it publicly. A highly established team/brand and they felt the need to write an open letter to address what they feel is rubbish to begin with – AlvarezJose
- They should have just ignored the idiots rather than stoke the fire – MP
- Thanks for your fairytale letter! – Casinista
In conclusion if Toto sought council from Niki and Paddy and they thought it to be a good idea to write a letter then I have no words and can only conclude that F1 has become a place for pussies….
However, if Wolff fired this off on his own accord then something is amiss in the Silver Arrows camp and I am looking forward to Niki’s reaction.
Nevertheless whatever transpires the letter was not a clever move by Mercedes hierarchy and I predict it will ultimately only increase the tension between the Mercedes drivers as they battle for the title and, in the end, this is what the whole thing is about.
Inside Line by Paul Velasco