Toto Wolff, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2019

Hamilton wants a “complete neutral”, not Wolff, running F1

2019 French Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton is unsure Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff would be the best person to take over running Formula 1.

As RaceFans revealed last month, Wolff’s contract with Mercedes expires at the end of 2020, when the opportunity to succeed Chase Carey as F1 CEO will become available.

But while Hamilton strongly endorsed Wolff’s credentials as a manager, he believes the sport should be run by a “complete neutral” with no ties to any team.

“I don’t believe there’s a better manager than Toto within the whole of Formula 1,” said Hamilton. “However, sitting back as a fan, sitting in the room with people who have to make ultimate decisions we, as humans, we can be biased.

“You’ve got [FIA President] Jean Todt who, I know Jean is level, but the fact is he’s been with the red team for so long so surely when he wakes up there’s a red T-shirt and there’s a silver T-shirt he probably goes for a red one, you know what I mean? Just like when I get out of bed and I see 44 I see number six I will go for number 44.

“Toto has been Mercedes through and through for such a long period of time. I don’t know if there’s anything in that but if there’s a choice of management I think he would be the best.

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“But I think the best would be someone from outside who’s just neutral, if there can be someone such as a complete neutral, who doesn’t know about Ferrari.”

Hamilton believes the teams should not be involved in taking decisions over the future of the sport.

“Ultimately the FIA, they’re the governing body, they make all the decisions and the teams shouldn’t be involved in that, in my opinion. Because the teams all want to do something for themselves. They don’t like me saying that but that’s the natural thing in competitors.

“It would be the same in football if all the football teams sat in a room and said ‘the sport should be like this’. They would push and pull for their own benefit. If you get a central group of people telling them, like the FIA for example, their sole job, and Liberty, is to make the sport great again.”

Why should Mercedes continue in Formula 1? Dieter Rencken considers the future of Formula 1’s dominant team in the new edition of his RacingLines column, coming up later today on RaceFans.

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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28 comments on “Hamilton wants a “complete neutral”, not Wolff, running F1”

  1. I don’t agree about the reasoning. You would want someone who had F1 knowledge to take the position and even if they person doesn’t have any tie with any team, he would still have preferred teams somehow, that is just how it works. The completely neutral fan doesn’t exist (one will always wish a team to do well at some venues).

    There could be a requirement to have been tied to several teams to mitigate that but that doesn’t give any garanties either. Then Wolff seems to be very professional and could probably follow Brown with a leading FIA position without showing any sign of previous affiliation…

    1. Then Wolff seems to be very professional and could probably follow Brown with a leading FIA position without showing any sign of previous affiliation

      @jeanrien – entirely agree. And the key word there is “professional”. People like Brawn, Wolff will be able to move into their new role without subsequently favouring their old team.

      Will they have more knowledge about their former team, friendlier banter with the former team’s management, etc.? Absolutely, yes. Will that compromise their decision making? Absolutely not (the only exception would be if the former team has their hooks in an individual, by way of something like skeletons in the closet).

  2. +1 to Hamilton
    Even if Toto is neutral many high profile Mercedes bosses can sway him

    The issue is finding someone who is knowledgeable about F1 without any major team ties.

    1. What’s stopping high profile Mercedes bosses swaying someone knowledgeable about F1 without any major team ties?

      1. Nothing ofcourse… but the influence will be stronger with someone who had ties

    2. @Ipsom I fit that criteria as I’m a person knowledgeable about F1 without any major team-ties or any team-ties in general for that matter.

      1. Where’s the application link?! Haha
        @jerejj

      2. Debateable for sure…

  3. Hakk The Rack
    26th June 2019, 8:32

    Bottas’ performance and car’s handling will improve after this interview, I believe.

    1. I actually thought the same. Wolff is not going to like what Hamilton said because he’s a venture capitalist and a very ambitious one at that. He always wants to go where the money is. His heart is not in it like others hence he jettisoned Williams for Mercedes in a heartbeat. Lewis watch out.

      1. :D Lol. I am quite certain Wolff is not pure profit driven.

        Rather than that he is Paranoia driven holding on for dear life scared to look behind and pushing team to ever greatness out of fear from Ferrari and RedBull catching up. Atleast this is what he always says.

  4. So FIA is biased towards Ferrari in Lewis’ opinion? Good to know. If Jean Todt next Sunday will choose the silver shirt, then Vettel and Leclerc will start from the pit-lane. Of Le Castellet.

    I fear it’s the opposite, FIA moved a lot far from Ferrari since Jean Todt took over.

    1. @m-bagattini

      I fear it’s the opposite, FIA moved a lot far from Ferrari since Jean Todt took over.

      +1 Exactly my thoughts, Jean Todt was everything but a Ferrari man after he joined the FIA. It was quite the opposite. The relationship was so tense especially after Marchionne, the same man who fired him, become president. Marchionne was always outspoken and critical of the rules, he didn’t waste time to veto the rule that grant discount to customer teams on PU price. Jean Todt didn’t like that as well and he responded by being very supportive of the #removeTheFerrariVeto movement.

      1. So supportive its still remaining…

        1. @Croft that’s a thing with Liberty, not FIA

  5. Someone neutral in F1? Murray Walker? Shame he’s well and truly retired

  6. I feel like the thing is, for the position of managing director, they’d want someone who’s worked within the sport anyway. And to my mind, there’s no one better than Toto for the job. I think that he would be professional and put his personal biases aside, so there wouldn’t be that issue for me.

  7. I consider Toto to be the best TP of this present generation by a long distance, and doubt whether Mercedes could continue to be as successful without him. Anyone in that team; and particularly Hamilton, would be daft to even suggest to Toto that the grass might be greener elsewhere. If I was Hamilton I would be doing everything in my power to put Toto off even considering a move elsewhere. Although they have both said in a joint interview that they would be prepared to move on if they thought someone else could continue to take Mercedes forward.

    And whilst Toto is a money man I think not only has his unique management style been a revelation, he actually enjoys that side of the business. And I’m sure the staff do as well. I don’t believe any other team personnel enjoy the freedom, both in their work and downtime, that Toto gives them. Whilst Hamilton gets all the headlines about the freedoms he enjoys, that freedom is enjoyed by the whole team. The garage already have job shares for those that don’t want to be away that much, and again whilst Hamilton ‘enjoys’ the headlines about his biker exploits that Toto finds out about in the press, it’s James Vowles and another engineer who are alongside Hamilton on the other bikes. And I doubt whether there are many TPs who have to be patched by the engineers if they want to talk to the drivers, because if he had direct communication with them ‘he would interfere to much’. :) Who would want to swop being a part of that work culture for a lifetime of negotiations with sweaty businessmen and stakeholders?

    Notwithstanding that Toto has said being a TP is not his ultimate ambition. And I think it goes without saying that he would probably make a success of whatever he does.

  8. I like Lewis’s willingness to say this, but I disagree, in this case Wolff’s managerial talent, respect and experience would probably vastly outweigh any (slight) bias. Brawn is a good example. Todt, more or less – I think he was slightly contaminated, fairly or otherwise, by the fact he took over while the Ecclestone regime was still in place, and we know the latter was Ferrari-inclined as part of the deal that structured Formula 1’s transformation into a ‘commodity’ in the first place.

  9. offer the job to Flavio Briatore! #F1partymode

    1. No, offer it to Frank Williams.
      Think about it. It keeps Toto where he should be (keeping Mercedes great), it keeps Flavio where he should be (out of sight) and it would immensely improve the performance of everyone in the Grove team overnight.

  10. CableTelcontat
    26th June 2019, 13:30

    I don’t think Lewis’s ish is about Toto’s fairness or otherwise. I think he is conserned about the IMPRESSION of Toto’s fairness or otherwise

  11. When Jean was elected to FIA I expected the very worst.

    But none of my fears have materialized. At least – I have no information, making me to think differently.
    I was and am really impressed by Jean and his integrity. There was not a single moment, when I thought that he is acting in a strange or questionable manner.

    I do understand Lewis of course (as I implied above). Though now, after witnessing Jean, I think Toto can be similarly professional and decision-unbiased.
    And I don’t think we need more “outside” people.

    Of course “outside” people bring new ideas and so on… but maybe motorsport experience counts for more in this case.

    I don’t know, I can only hope whoever replaces Jean, that he or she will keep up doing very good job.

  12. Not having followed F1 for that many years, the only times I have noticed Todt has been when he is seen sitting next to Toto Wolff during races. I used to wonder why he was trying to encourage the impression that he is much closer to Mercedes than to any other team. So Lewis’ example using Todt just doesn’t ring true.

    Instead, I would credit Wolff’s networking and influencing skills which is really required in F1 and think he would do well running F1.

  13. best thing Hamo’s said all year…

  14. Anyone else spot the subtle nod to Nico Rosberg in Lewis’ comments?

    1. @kevinc: yes, the reference with the car numbers. It seems that somewhere in his subconscious, Lewis is still seeing Rosberg’s as the oponent rather than Valteri.

  15. I’d have no problem nor concerns with TW taking the role. One thing I will always appreciate from TW is how he let LH and NR race it out on the track when there were no other competitors to take the fight to them. He understood that it was their duty to not designate a 1 and 2 and make their finishing spots predictable ala MS/Ferrari.

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