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Testing times - Exclusive Q&A with Mercedes’ Toto Wolff 02 Jul 2013

Toto Wolff (AUT) Mercedes AMG F1 Director of Motorsport.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Practice, Silverstone, England, Friday, 28 June 2013 Race winner Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 30 June 2013 Toto Wolff (AUT) Mercedes AMG F1 Director of Motorsport and Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal celebrate.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 30 June 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 23 May 2013 (L to R): Niki Lauda (AUT) Mercedes AMG F1 Non-Executive Chairman and Toto Wolff (AUT) Mercedes AMG F1 Director of Motorsport.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 10 May 2013 Race winner Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates with the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 30 June 2013 Toto Wolff (AUT) Executive Director of Mercedes AMG.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 12 May 2013 Mercedes AMG F1 W04 rear floor and suspension detail in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 11 May 2013 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 22 March 2013 Toto Wolff (AUT) Mercedes AMG F1 Director of Motorsport and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 29 June 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 30 June 2013 Toto Wolff (AUT) Mercedes AMG F1 Director of Motorsport.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 23 May 2013 (L to R): Niki Lauda (AUT) Mercedes AMG F1 Non-Executive Chairman and Toto Wolff (AUT) Mercedes AMG CEO.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 22 March 2013

Toto Wolff’s first six months with Mercedes as the team’s executive director have been tumultuous to say the least, culminating in their ban from the upcoming young driver test for those illegal 1,000 kilometres with Pirelli. But with ‘tyregate’ now firmly behind them, and the F1 W04 having won its second race of 2013 at the weekend, Wolff insists that team spirit at Brackley and Brixworth is stronger than ever…

Q: Toto, the performance level that Mercedes have shown since Monaco - because of, or despite the disputed test?
Toto Wolff:
Despite the test. And I tell you why: we were very busy the last couple of weeks getting prepared for the International Tribunal. A lot of grey cells that normally concentrate on making the car better were working on the documentation for the Tribunal. That’s why I settle for the ‘despite’!

Q: Some would say Mercedes got off fairly lightly. Your non-executive chairman Niki Lauda said that Mercedes would have accepted any verdict. What penalty scenarios were you contemplating internally?
TW:
I think Niki’s quotes were taken out of context. He didn’t mean that we would have taken any verdict because we wouldn’t have taken any verdict. What I think is that we should stop making politics. The teams should stop making politics. Formula One is about racing performance, about the drivers, and not the green table or back room politics. We have been given a penalty and we accept it. Three days not testing - yes it is with rookie drivers, agreed, and this is a big differentiation to our regular race drivers - but it is free testing, which means (with the young driver in the car) that you are allowed to use any car, allowed to put any part on the car and allowed to develop any part on the car. You can use the race car with rigs and sensors, you use the race tyres and are on a track where you have raced before, similar to us. So losing three days with unlimited mileage - probably 1,500 kilometres - is a big hit. We have a long list of things we would have done but now can’t. Something like 35 different programs. And if somebody says there are nobodies driving, well this test is not about squeezing out the last tenth, but about collecting data.

Q: Can you briefly explain why Mercedes found themselves in that situation? Was it all a huge misunderstanding, false signals, or simply trying to push the boundaries?
TW:
Well, Mercedes is about sporting competition, fair competition, and engineers competing against each other at the highest level, and definitely not about unfair advantages and malicious dealings. We acted in good faith because we asked Charlie (Whiting) if that test was fine, Charlie I think acted in good faith by telling us that the test was okay. We did the test and afterwards our microcosms collapsed and we found out that the matter could have been handled in a different way - but that’s in the past now.

Q: With hindsight do you regret those 1,000 kilometres in Barcelona?
TW:
Well, we really tried to help Pirelli. We shouldn’t let them down. They were asked to provide spectacular tyres - to provide tyres that would enable lots of pit stops - and that is what they did. Then everybody says we don’t want that any more. We had some tyre failures - that was clearly a safety issue as well - and they asked us if we could help them out - and that is what we did. We didn’t measure anything on the car, we didn’t do what certain media wrote. But clearly in hindsight, had I known about the avalanche of things that would result, we probably we wouldn’t have done it because it diverts us from our core business.

Q: For 2014 there are four in-season tests planned. Is this a direct consequence of the whole affair: better legalize in-season tests before the sport ends up in front of a tribunal every time somebody puts mileage on their car?
TW:
I think the in-season tests are an approach by the teams to reduce simulation, to reduce wind tunnel time. And in the context of our ‘tyregate’ and the efforts that must be made to support Pirelli, yes, it is a good thing. Eight additional days will help the teams and will help Pirelli.

Q: Putting the testing controversy behind you, the season is starting to look really promising for Mercedes. Is second in the constructors’ championship a realistic goal for 2013?
TW:
We could even live with fourth place in the constructors’. In general we look much better on Saturdays, but lately we are also heavily improving on Sundays. But you must never underestimate Ferrari or Lotus. True, when it is cold they are not performing so well, but wait until the hotter races - then we could be struggling again.

Q: Paddy Lowe, your new executive director (technical), was in Mercedes colours for the first time at a race at Silverstone. Have you sorted out what his role will be? Team principal Ross Brawn said not so long ago that his earlier-than-anticipated arrival meant it was a bit unclear as to what his immediate duties would be...
TW:
We are moving towards a completely different environment with the 2014 regulations and having lots of intelligent people helps us to concentrate on the 2013 activities and have a firm eye on 2014. Paddy is analysing the situation at the moment. He works for Ross and he is fitting in perfectly.

Q: What about for 2014, when Paddy has fully bedded in and you have four ‘cooks in the kitchen’?
TW:
That is very easy: Niki is the chairman of the board, he is a valuable advisor, but his is more of a mentoring role, a strategic advisory role. He is not in the office every day. The actual running of the team is divided between Ross and myself - between the engineering side and the commercial side - and this functions very well. And Paddy is fitting in very well. I think we should all not forget our core skills and competencies - a screwdriver in my hand would do more damage than good to the car and I am not sure that Paddy is so keen on having to make a sponsorship pitch.

Q: Half a season with Mercedes and you have already been confronted with some serious F1 politics. What have you learned?
TW:
I have learned a lot I can tell you! First I have to say that I take my hat off from Norbert (Haug) who did the job for 22 years. In these six months we have been on a rollercoaster ride: difficult races, ups and downs, the test tribunal and politics. So what I have learned is that the most important thing is to preserve the team spirit. You can have a ‘sh*t storm’ outside as long as the team sticks together. Whatever has happened in the last couple of weeks has made us stronger. We have never let each other down. That goes for every sport and every business - as long as the team, and every individual in that team, sticks together, believes in the common goal and puts the common interest above personal interest, then you are on the right track.

Q: There is no number-one driver in the team. Is that a situation based on results or contracts?
TW:
On everything! We have no number-one driver because that is not Mercedes’ nor the team’s policy. We have two drivers who are pushing themselves to the limit, so we would never give anyone number-one status - unless at the end of the season one of our drivers is capable of winning the championship but not the other. But we are far away from this.

Q: So let’s put it this way: who has the greater potential to win the championship for Mercedes?
TW:
Both of them are capable. They are so different in their approach - and yet so brilliant. Lewis’s (Hamilton’s) instinct-driven skills or Nico’s (Rosberg’s) talent and work-driven skills - in the end it boils down to the same lap time. So my best bet is that it will be one or the other! (laughs)

Q: Based on that and the knowledge that Mercedes’ qualifying speed has generally been better than your race pace, how do you see the Silverstone result?
TW:
Well, before Monaco and Silverstone I would have said that we’d love to move to a ‘Saturday championship’ - that would be a pretty sure way for us to be in contention for the world championship. (laughs) But it’s shifting and we are really starting to embrace Sundays. We know that we have to make our tyres last, because I believe that our car right now is the quickest car on the grid. The conditions also play a role: the warmer it gets the more difficult it is for us…

Q: So which races could be good for you?
TW:
Silverstone just was, despite not being a typical English Sunday afternoon, and I am looking forward to a typical Eifel weekend in Germany. Beyond that Spa is our next best bet.

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