TEAM BOSS OF THE YEAR

Toto Wolff Mercedes

F1 Racing (UK) - - AWARDS 2018 -

There are those who say that Toto Wolff’s life be­came eas­ier in 2017, af­ter he’d in­stalled Valt­teri Bot­tas in the seat for­merly oc­cu­pied by Nico Ros­berg, thereby pro­duc­ing har­mony where once there had been ran­cour. No fur­ther need to bang his driv­ers’ heads to­gether and ex­hort them to play nice for the good of the team.

And yet – set­ting aside the busi­ness of how to keep his team at the top – Wolff has had to make tough de­ci­sions, few more weighty than at the 2018 Rus­sian Grand Prix. There he made a call that ren­dered him the ob­ject of fierce scru­tiny: with five races re­main­ing, he or­dered Bot­tas to cede vic­tory to Lewis Hamil­ton. Bot­tas’s cool ac­qui­es­cence to the or­der made the act no less prob­lem­atic.

Wolff later ad­mit­ted he had strug­gled to sleep the pre­vi­ous night, wrestling with the per­mu­ta­tions of the close cham­pi­onship bat­tle be­tween Hamil­ton and Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, the moral­ity of team or­ders, and the ef­fect it would have on ‘the show’. But he dis­played lead­er­ship in his de­ci­sion and jus­ti­fied his ac­tions. When the sole goal of the Mercedes or­gan­i­sa­tion – to­talling hun­dreds of em­ploy­ees – is to win the driv­ers’ and con­struc­tors’ ti­tles, then ev­ery crit­i­cal de­ci­sion must re­turn to that purpose. A clear strate­gic ac­tion is the dif­fer­ence be­tween win­ners and losers.

It was sug­gested that Wolff’s ac­tions mir­rored those un­pleas­ant scenes in Aus­tria in ‘02, early on in the sea­son when Rubens Bar­richello was pre­vailed upon to make way for Michael Schu­macher. Wolff’s re­sponse was to point out that Jean Todt, then Fer­rari team prin­ci­pal, was the most suc­cess­ful team boss in the history of mod­ern mo­tor­sport, with nu­mer­ous cham­pi­onship vic­to­ries in ral­ly­ing, sportscars and F1.

Is it any sur­prise, then, that Mercedes have man­aged to match Todt’s achieve­ment of five con­sec­u­tive driv­ers’ and con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onships? Four of those have been de­liv­ered by Hamil­ton, who, un­der Wolff’s management, has been granted free­doms that have en­abled him to grow as a per­son – and as an in­creas­ingly con­sis­tent and re­lent­less com­peti­tor.

“To be voted the team prin­ci­pal of the year, by the read­ers of F1 Rac­ing, makes me very happy. I was priv­i­leged to have won this same award once be­fore in 2014, so now I am a dou­ble cham­pion! Af­ter such a momentous year, I feel very grate­ful to have won this.”

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