His rise from the periphery of F1 to top of the all-conquering Mercedes team is one of the sport’s most intriguing human-interest stories.
digs a little deeper into the man behind Merc with a selection of your questions
Squinting in the Melbourne afternoon sunlight, Toto Wolff lowers his imposing frame onto a bench-seat across a table from F1 Racing. He’s tentative as he descends, wary of straining the left knee he damaged in a faintly ludicrous gym mishap earlier this year.
“It was stupid, you know,” he relates, in a clipped, accented tone, that, yes, does sound a bit like Arnie’s [Wolff has been dubbed ‘Totonator’ by Merc social media gurus]. “I was training with Susie [Wolff, his wife and Williams test driver] and I jumped onto a medicine ball. It just went.”
The damage was painful and debilitating, though happily xable through a continuing rehabilitation process. But he’s still limping slightly and doesn’t look ready to trot out a marathon any time soon. It’s surprising, indeed, to encounter something less than optimised at this phenomenally slick and successful Formula 1 team. By all accounts, Wolff has found the physical impairment extremely frustrating – hardly surprising for a one-time member of the Austrian national rugby squad (yes, really) and a fast, ambitious former racer.
Today though, as we speak on the Saturday afternoon of the Australian GP, his spirits are high – lifted, no doubt, by the blistering pace so very much evident in this year’s W06 Hybrid. Certainly, he’s in a good frame of mind to face a grilling-by-reader courtesy of the F1 Racing Global Fan Community. “Have you done one of these before?” we ask. “No.” So we explain the format of our long-running ‘You Ask The Questions’ series of interviews, whereby readers are given the chance to quiz the sport’s movers and shakers.
“Okay,” says Toto with a nod. “I am ready.” What is it like to work with Niki Lauda? Rebecca Pagett, UK Very interesting, because, of course, he has been in the sport for such a long time in various roles. And as a driver he became a three-time world champion and that gives us just so much ‘angle’ to see things from a driver’s perspective. So I enjoy working with Niki very much. Is that answer too long? F1R: No – keep going! Describe Niki Lauda in three words. Zacharie Duval, France Um… [there’s a pause of eight seconds as Wolff prepares his words carefully] direct… precise… … and, uh, how do you say… he’s… he learns and develops himself. Self-critical? ‘Capable of learning?’ Someone who is not stubborn but is capable of saying ‘you’re right’.