Toto Wolff has been on an ongoing rant about porpoising, his team suffering most with the phenomenon that has surfaced in this new age of ground-effects in Formula 1 and, of course, the Mercedes team boss has had a lot to say on the matter. Maybe too much?
In the two and a half decades of his involvement in F1, from a low-profile shareholder at Williams to becoming Mercedes motorsport boss, steering the flagship team – the reborn Silver Arrows – to become the most successful team in the history of our sport.
Under Wolff’s watch Mercedes have amassed 17 F1 world titles (eight constructors and seven drivers) with their drivers winning 115 Grand Prix races at the same time.
The current Mercedes F1 team morphed from the original Tyrrell Racing Organisation, then became British American Racing (BAR) before Honda turned it into a works effort; then the 2008 recession struck and the whole project was sold to Brawn GP for a pound!
Winning the 2009 F1 title with Jenson Button, with Mercedes power, was the final piece of the puzzle for the German manufacturer to return to the top flight after a half-century absence. They bought the team Ross built and painted it Silver and the rest, as they say, is well-documented history.
Two decades later gone is the big boss, who gave the nod to Mercedes F1 rebirth, Dieter Zetsche as are the legends Ross Brawn and Niki Lauda, both instrumental in the formation and evolution of the team.
Wolff is the last man standing of the original leadership, and along the journey he is has become one of the most powerful men in motorsport and one of the few that made a fortune from F1, he might have been rich when he first invested in Valtteri Bottas rise into f1 through Willimas, but for sure he is a whole lot richer now.
Needless to say, he has become an attention-attracting F1 team boss, not afraid to call it as it is, as long as it is in the interests of his team first and on occasions prone to wearing his heart on his sleeve, and always good for a quote.
Of late he can’t be stopped as Mercedes are floored by their bouncing floor, prompting Toto Town Cryer in chief to crank up the vocal cords as he lobbies whoever and whatever to change the F1 rules to suit his cars.
Typical Toto, ditto any good team manager, but with social media in an anti-Wolff frenzy, we have to ask our TeamTalk crew: Is the Mercedes F1 boss taking the howling too loud?
Mark Kay: Wolff isn’t howling too much he is keeping the FIA honest
It is easy to become tribal over issues like this and think that Toto Wolff is a self-opinionated guy that is only looking after his and his teams’ interests, but the one key point here to remember is that whether it is him, Christian Horner, or even Otmar Szafnaur, their thoughts and comments are key to setting the narrative of F1.
Many of the GP247 readers would be quite aware of the struggles we have had with the FIA in respect to access and transparency of F1 Technical Directives.
In many ways, F1 has historically been a closed shop regarding the way in which the sport has been administered from a technical, sporting, and administrative perspective, and so it is critical for us as the public consumer of the sport that people such as Wolff continue to put these issues into the public forum.
For me, digging down into the matter at hand regarding Technical Directive 039 and vertical oscillation limits, I think it is more about Mercedes dealing with a shit design as opposed to a flawed technical regulative framework, but without Wolff, Horner et Al howling on about the matter, there would be little impetus for us to even have much awareness on the matter.
So, ultimately what I think is that no, Wolff isn’t howling too much, and until such time as the FIA are transparent and inclusive about the way in which F1 is run, he, and the rest of them, should keep on doing so which will assure that we are informed, and the FIA is kept honest.
Sean Stevens: F1 racing is not a popularity contest
Toto must be one of the most divisive characters in Formula 1 at the moment. People either like him or they don’t, few are indifferent. I don’t know him personally, but I have to respect the job he delivers in leading the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team.
Mercedes for sure have a schizophrenic car, possibly due to a bad call at the start of the season, but they continue to grind out results and points when they shouldn’t. This is not just the act of two exceptional drivers, it’s the result of the team and a reflection of its leadership.
When others were binning staff to divert money into development due to the budget caps, Toto chose to keep his people. Maybe that’s one of the reasons they are punching above their weight.
F1 racing is not a popularity contest, it’s war and a highly intensive one at that. To win you have to be ruthless in your pursuit of any advantage for yourself together with neutralising those of the competition may have.
Whatever it takes. If there is one team Red Bull fear more than Ferrari it’s a resurgent Mercedes. They have the drivers, they have the experience, they have the grit, and they have Toto Wolff.
Kevin Melro: The games surely will not end as Toto is engrained in F1’s DNA
Tasked with making the best of a slow start, Mercedes got out of the gate this year in crisis mode with a W13 challenger simply not up to the task; nowhere near the expected level.
What we’ve seen from Toto Wolff since the beginning of the season is much in line with what we’ve seen the last handful of years, therefore it’s not a big surprise to see the predictable pattern of tactics he’s employing.
This time, both Mercedes drivers drummed to their puppet master’s beat putting forward a herculean effort to drive the narrative home in what can only be defined as crisis management from the Mercedes outfit.
Nobody bought the collective effort showcased during the Azerbaijan GP as genuine individually formed opinions from the Mercedes trio, and not one week later, the story changed, now it’s everyone else’s fault; SUPRISE! It’s exhausting.
Previous FIA personnel, most notably Michael Masi set a tone in the past that if enough hysteria could be generated, the FIA would entertain any matter and it seems Toto is still operating on yesterday’s principles.
For example, Red Bull famously exclaimed that the Mercedes was too fast at the Sao Paulo GP in 2021 despite Red Bull registering nearly dead last in every speed trap in qualifying trim by comparison. The weekend fell into utter chaos as the FIA embellished in the Horner vs Wolff histrionics, we all did, it was movie-worthy.
Masi eventually became the face of the FIA seemingly for and certainly having an open opinion on all matters while governing the sport like his own personal Tik Tok account. Christian Horner and Toto Wolff fed off the ability to be rewarded for savage behaviour.
Presently Toto’s howling is being exacerbated by the FIA having taken a step back and now governing the sport by communicating through the language of sporting code and regulations exclusively.
The FIA have built a wall against the teams with a clear message to all parties, no more leniency, follow the rules. It began with Hamilton’s fine for missing the end-of-year Gala, Nico Rosberg banned from GP weekends, enforcement of jewellery and undergarment regulations, zero tolerance for the definition of track limits, and recently we’ve seen on-track driving infraction penalties seemingly become more stringent than ever.
Perhaps it may have even been prudent by the FIA to give Lewis a friendly reminder that the target time to extract one’s self from a F1 machine is seven seconds, just as in the jewellery debacle, it’s for his own safety.
The point is Toto is misaligned in his current dance with the FIA, different strokes for different folks, and it results in his complaining feeling ear piercing. The reality is it’s a reasonable expectation for Team Principles to lobby for what’s best for their respective parties.
Christian Horner has cooled it this year, Toto will as well and we’ll all be better for it, but the games otherwise surely will not end as Toto is engrained in F1’s DNA.
Jad Mallak: Wolff is howling, and tarnishing his image
Whether they are fighting with Red Bull for the Championship, or just fighting with a disobedient car trying to stop it from jumping all over the place, Mercedes – and Toto Wolff – just know how to find their way into the centre of almost every F1 controversy.
Being eight-time Constructors’ Champions, dominating the last decade of the sport, this probably comes with the territory, but a recent couple of weeks have shown how much Mercedes are struggling to adapt with their new “best-of-the-rest” status.
Let me qualify my stance first – Bouncing or “porpoising” poses a safety hazard, but only for Mercedes drivers, or those whose teams follow the same path with their cars as Mercedes. The problem is exclusive to the Silver Arrows, as you do not need to be an expert to see that Red Bull, and Alpine, for example, do not have this problem.
With Ferrari, it is only the case with Carlos Sainz as Charles Leclerc doesn’t seem to have any issues, which all leads me to believe that the problem can be circumvented, be it the aero-based “porpoising” or the suspension-related bouncing.
So, with Mercedes unable to fix their car, their drivers start to moan about it, and the team supports them which is strange unless there is an agenda there. Let the drivers nag, maybe other drivers will too, and then we try to push for a regulation change.
The way the FIA responded, however, meant that Wolff and Co’s plan backfired spectacularly, after which the Austrian goes on the offensive creating a smokescreen calling other team bosses pitiful while accusing them of manipulating their drivers, insinuating that he is the only team principal out there who cares for the drivers’ wellbeing.
That’s howling at its best, and while I have great respect for what Wolff achieved with Mercedes since he took over, I believe he is tarnishing his image and legacy with his latest antiques.
Paul Velasco: Leave Toto alone he knows exactly what he is doing
Imagine the former great Titans of our sport Enzo Ferrari, Colin Chapman, Ken Tyrrell, Sir Frank Williams Ron Dennis et all were subject to the miked-up social media world of today, every public move and utterance directed and scrutinised; TV cameras and Netflix stalking them like flies on poopoo.
Can you imagine the outcry when Enzo played one driver against another, or Colin stuck young guns in fast but fragile cars, or lumberjack Ken had a good old rant about anything that bugged him in the moment, or Ron swatting off reporters like flies or Sir Frank firing F1 World Champs?
They would have all been fodder for the modern age of keyboard warriors and trolls. Pretty much like Wolff and his current counterparts are. But the Old Guard lived in the safe haven that the pre-internet world afforded them, their great quotes documented in great racing books and magazines, not in the modern dirty social media laundry of fake news and malicious intent
The F1 Boys – team bosses probably more than drivers – these days live with a constant spotlight on their every move, quote machines to feed a vociferous appetite that media has today.
Therefore when Wolff throws his headphones or points out the dangers of bouncing F1 cars or anything that negatively affects his team, that’s part and parcel of the pitfalls of doing his job, and one (as mentioned above) he has done with greater success than any other human.
In my book, and lifetime, Wolff built the most formidable racing organisation ever witnessed, not only the mighty Silver Arrows F1 team but also the myriad of series Mercedes are involved in, Amateur, Pro-Am and Professional – including a driver programme that has produced the likes of George Russell.
So, in my book that gives Toto the stage to say what he likes when he likes, and we should listen. That he makes occasional gaffes, shoots from the hip, is infuriating condescending, wears his heart on his sleeve and all those things that make him the ultra-successful man that he is.
Racing is in his Blood, like all of us reading this, and thus he is family. When an elder speaks we should listen, if they talk shit – as messengers of F1 – we will point it out, if he talks sense we will learn. But we will never call them out to shut it.
Is Wolff howling too much? No! He can howl as much as he wants, he has earned the right to do so more than most. The same applies to his rival team principals up and down the pitlane.
Like Wolff – Christian, Helmut, Franz, Zak, Andreas, Fred, Mattia, Lawrence, Otmar, Guenther – are an intrinsic part of the F1 narrative; perhaps not as exposed as the star drivers are, but team bosses have longevity on their side. So let them howl. They make F1 what it is.