Toto Wolff, 2019

Wolff tells rivals to stop ‘talking F1 down’

2019 F1 season

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff accused rival teams of “doing a Ratner” with their complaints about Formula 1.

Speaking after the team’s first defeat of the season at the Austrian Grand Prix, Wolff said the lively race showed complaints about the standard of racing in F1 were too hasty.

Wolff compared the critics to Gerald Ratner, whose notorious 1991 speech describing his jewellery company’s products as “total crap” caused his company’s value to plummet.

“I think all the ones that use the biggest polemic and the hardest words in their rhetoric should remember the next time they start to complain,” said Wolff. “Because we shouldn’t be doing a Ratner and talking our sport down.

Following a processional French Grand Prix which Mercedes won comfortably, Wolff said the Austrian Grand Prix showed a sport at its best: “More than alive, but spectacular with a full crowd, with controversy on-track and some fantastic racing.”

He said he found it amusing that the very teams who had unsuccessfully tried to bring about a switch back to F1’s 2018 tyres during the Austrian Grand Prix weekend had prevailed in the race.

“It’s a very good day for Formula 1,” he said. “Some fantastic racing.

“I want to really say bravo to Pirelli that have stood strong to the opinion, withstand manipulation and deliver us a product that we were able to push until the very end.

“Last year we had some blistering issue, this year the tyre was great and it is a little bit humorous that the ones that complained the most are the ones that pushed the tyre all the way to the end today.”

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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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  • 48 comments on “Wolff tells rivals to stop ‘talking F1 down’”

    1. F1 is talking F1 down.

    2. He is right.

      1. He is ramping up towards his new role mostly…

    3. Not talking it down is like the soviet union as presented in the Chernobyl series.
      Garbage racing, teams going bankrupt, politics. If you paint a pretty picture above that, it just makes it extremely hypocritical.

      1. @mzso why are you here? Why have you taken time out of your life to register on a website primarily dedicated to a sport you seem to detest? Honestly sick to death of people who talk endless s about something yet still find the time to follow it online and repeat the same garbage endlessly to pull others into your miserable little bubble.

        1. I’m waiting for it to get good again. For near twenty years now…

    4. GtisBetter (@)
      6th July 2019, 14:01

      Both sides have a point. People are very quick to use hyperbolic comments to describe F1 both postively and negatively, but plenty of good constructive critisism can be found too and is worth taking into account, which would improve F1.

      1. @passingisoverrated – Disagree, this is not a both sides issue. One side wants closer racing, better competition, and fairer distribution of prize money so that maybe more than 2-3 teams could win a race or even stand on the podium. The other side thinks things are fine because 1 race out of every 10 is interesting only because the track conditions cause the runaway leaders to falter.

        These are not the same.

        1. @hobo I think even TW knows things are not fine because 1 out of 10 races is interesting. I don’t agree with everything he is saying above, but he is not saying F1 is great either. He is well aware of the issues, and is only complaining about the extreme complainers. I have no doubt TW is on board with closer racing, better competition, and fairer money distribution, because the healthier the entity he plays in, the richer he (et al) continues to get while doing what they love.

          1. @robbie – It would be great if all teams/personnel felt that way but I don’t see indications of that being the case. Every team wants what they want or they threaten to leave. Merc constantly undersells their advantage, Ferrari have the veto, RBR could take 4 cars off the grid if they leave, etc. If the teams got together, they could do a lot. But as it is they’d rather just each get what they can from Liberty while they can.

            1. @hobo Guess I won’t be swaying you but I feel confident that Liberty and Brawn have been putting their spin on their version of F1’s future, and there’s nothing outlandish about it, and I get no sense that the teams will be allowed the kind of greed that BE allowed them. Everyone has seemed to be on board with F1 as it is being ‘unsustainable’ and so as soon as they can, which is post-2020, there will be changes that to me can only be for the good. I’m not trying to sound naive and claim the teams will be angels, but I do expect their cooperation and yes of course they will not stand for being stripped of everything BE afforded them, but they know that was excessive at the same time. Merc undersells their advantage so they don’t come across as too cocky, Ferrari have the veto that doesn’t exactly guarantee them Championships as we have seen, and RBR are not likely to pull their cars and lose all the marketing etc they get from being in F1. They’ve just got going with Honda and they have Max. Personally I think all teams would be foolish to not see out the start of the new chapter, because I think it is going to be extremely exciting, or at least at a minimum they should hang in and see if I’m right. There are fixes coming to a lot of F1’s concerns that have been hovering for a couple of decades now.

    5. I agree that a lot of the talk from the insiders about how “broken” F1 is, should be done behind closed doors. That being said, one race is hardly compelling evidence that F1 doesn’t have issues.

    6. Dear Toto, and everyone else who now jumps the “Oh, it’s all good-bandwagon.” last race was an exception, and basically a one man race. So claiming it’s much better than we thought it is, is a joke.
      The reality remains that F1 is nowhere where it should be until we have a season with atleast 5 different teams, and 9 different people, on the podium, cars that are 150 kg lighter and have atleast 30% less downforce, drivers that are able to push the entire race, a huge decrease in reliability and a huge increase in blown up engines and drivers banging wheels without the constant fear of penalties, all “talking down” is justified.

      1. Some of us find F1 just fine. I actually enjoyed the French GP. I do not like moto GP where people meaninglessly pass and repass.

        1. I actually enjoyed the French GP.

          Go see a doctor

        2. Strange comment … MotoGP is far more exciting than F1 with regards to wheel to wheel/fairing to fairing racing.

          1. Strange comment … MotoGP is far more exciting than F1 with regards to wheel to wheel/fairing to fairing racing.

            Little waif like slivers of machinery endlessly leaning around each others doesnt excite me either. Each to their own I will take a poised machine on 4 wheels darting around a circuit over that any day of the week. Not a strange comment whatsoever.

      2. I am Toto-tired, not F1-tired

      3. a huge decrease in reliability and a huge increase in blown up engines

        It was good until this point. What next? Sprinklers?

      4. And as for complaints about penalties – just imagine Kevin Magnussen, for example, if he knew he could get away with anything? I find Max Verstappen a distasteful driver, like I did Michael Schumacher when he was with Ferrari. Stopping at nothing to win is beyond the pale. I’d much rather see people win through sheer skill like Button when he was on form (I know he sometimes wasn’t) One of my favourite memories is of him pushing Vettel into a mistake so he could pass and win the race. One of my least favourite memories is Schumacher taking out Hill to deny him the champiosnhip

        1. Montreal 2011 one of the best GP Button pitted something like 5 times, had two collisions and was bang last at one point but because he felt the conditions and was first on the right tyres in the changeable conditions he ended up chasing down Vettel and forcing the error on the last lap.

      5. The reality remains that F1 is nowhere where it should be until we have a season with atleast 5 different teams, and 9 different people, on the podium,

        Very specific with your numbers.

        cars that are 150 kg lighter and have atleast 30% less downforce, drivers that are able to push the entire race,

        Yeah well I think we’ed all like to see something along those lines to improve racing.

        a huge decrease in reliability and a huge increase in blown up engines

        I’m old enough to remember when that was a thing, I’m glad it’s gone. It was never much fun seeing half a dozen cars finish out of 16 or 18 starters.

        drivers banging wheels without the constant fear of penalties

        Oconomo You just described Formula V or ford F1 has never been that, F1 is for grown ups.

        1. @johnrkh, they are certainly peculiarly specific numbers, and at the same time it raises the question of what exactly the original poster is trying to achieve – because having “at least 9” different people on the podium basically implies that Oconomo wants podium finishes to be handed out to half the grid.

          If half the grid is achieving at least one podium finish, does it not then risk devaluing the importance and sense of achievement in getting onto the podium in the first place? A podium finish is meant to be a mark of achievement and not something that is meant to be easy, after all – but if 1 in 2 drivers are now achieving a podium finish, it then begs the question of whether it is that much of a challenge any more, or if the act of making it so commonplace just devalues the importance of a podium finish until it becomes something trivial.

          Indeed, there is a rather strange contradiction running throughout the post that Oconomo puts forward, and that seems to be endemic in quite a few posters with similar proposals.

          On the one hand, they talk about wanting to increase the importance of driver skill, but then they also talk about introducing massive amounts of randomness through large increases in unreliability – that second factor then heavily de-emphasises the importance of driver skill in favour of random chance, devaluing the very thing they want to emphasise in the first place.

          1. I wasn’t taking the numbers Oconomo has typed as necessarily specific, but just general examples as to a different direction. I can go along with an approximation of the numbers but cannot agree with the unreliability concept, and it is not like they are going to devolve to 30% more unreliability anyway.

            Anon it is interesting that your chosen tack is to call 9 different podium getters in a season ‘devaluing’ podiums, when it can just as easily be interpreted that what that would represent is a closer field, and therefore winning races and Championships harder, not easier. Why would half the grid be ‘handed’ podiums rather than half the grid was able to ‘fight’ for podiums. I envision that of the 9 (for example) perhaps 4 or 5 of them would have only reached the podium once or twice in the season, because we are still going to have the ‘have’ teams and the ‘have less’ teams. There would still be a 2 or 3 drivers reaching the podium much of the time.

            Taking the extreme example of every car being exactly identical, would that then mean winning the Championship in that series was meaningless because podiums would be commonplace for all drivers? Or would it mean it was completely a driver vs driver series and the winner for the season would have made a huge accomplishment? Are you advocating that having only the same 3 drivers ever get to the podium is what makes a podium valuable? How valuable is that to the series overall? Getting to the podium should be so rare and hard to achieve that most of the field can’t get near it?

    7. I was annoyed to see the complaints about the tyres, and even more annoyed to see it still being complained about from the other side now as if last weeks result changes anything either way. What does it matter?

      Everyone knows F1 sucks right now and that it would until Bernie’s contracts came to an end. The only thing that matters is getting it right for the future. If the teams focused even half as much on making F1 the greatest it can be for us as it does on getting the greatest advantage for themselves, things would be looking a lot better and these kind of articles wouldn’t exist.

      1. @skipgamer – Agree, it really is the worst condensed form of political theater. The teams are doing what Bernie used to do, squeeze as much out for themselves now as they can. Don’t care about the others or what the impact will be later.

        1. @skipgamer @hobo I somewhat disagree in that I do believe there is a bit of a sea change going on. More than a bit. I think for the most part the teams have come around to the direction Liberty and Brawn want to take F1, and frankly I have only been excited by the things they have talked about doing since taking over from BE.

          While I think any of us in charge of any of the teams ie. in their shoes, would try to look out for our own best interests and that of our team, but indeed this is no longer the BE era, and as much as teams will naturally look out for themselves like any company in the world would do, we are going to have budget caps, we are going to have better money distribution, and we are going to have a better product on the track and completely different tires (and rims) because the cars will be completely different.

          Oh I don’t expect everything to ever be perfect, but I still cannot see how F1 cannot at a minimum be fairly well improved with the movement that is in place for change. Ferrari veto power and extra money? That only guaranteed them success when it was the MS/Ferrari era and Mosley and BE orchestrated the end of the Ferrari WDC drought with massive skewing towards one driver on one team. Other than that, I’m not concerned about Ferrari’s unique interests, and it seems otherwise it has just come down to the finer details being agreed, but the bulk of the new direction is, I believe, in place.

          I hope and believe even just having drs-free cars able to follow more closely and give us a more gladiator vs gladiator product on the track should go a long way to solving a lot of problems if the result is much more excitement, and therefore audience, and therefore money, and therefore sponsors injected into F1.

          1. @robbie – I’m not sold. They said the aero regs for 2019 would make it easier to follow and easier to challenge. Wider, simpler front wing, raised (possibly skinnier) rear. I said we’ve seen it before, people said I was simplifying and change would come. Nothing much changed.

            Now a broken clock is still right occasionally, so I am not saying I know anything you or others don’t. But I also don’t see anything yet that indicates things will be better in 2021 or 2024. Just my opinion, I’m really hoping to be completely wrong. I’d love more than 2 teams at the front, and more than 1 team dominating.

            1. @hobo Personally I never took the changes for 2019 to be anything but a bandage on cars not meant to race in close quarters with other cars. I don’t think Brawn ever said much more than that. He certainly did not promise some fix, for that is impossible with these cars, heavily clean air dependent, with drs, and with terrible tires. No little wing change was ever going to do all that much, nor did Brawn want to waste too much of teams’ time or money trying. It was a relatively simple, relatively inexpensive tweak to try to help a bit. These are BE era cars borne of the top 4 teams who were given the bulk of the power by BE to placate them over the CVC deal.

              For me there is no comparing what Liberty and Brawn are able to do now with the problematic BE cars, vs what they have already shown concept shots of, borne of their actual unprecedented 2-car nose to tail wind tunnel work exactly to solve the problem of clean air dependence. That’s huge.

              You don’t see anything yet, of course because they are still finalizing things and nothing will be set until October now, but I get really excited when I hear Brawn talk of cars that will only lose 20% or less of their performance vs the 50% to 80% they do now in dirty air. With cars making less wake to begin with, and cars needing much less in the way of clean air, drs will not be needed, nor will gadget tires designed to add spice to a processional field, for that won’t exist anymore.

            2. @Robbie – I appreciate your points. But word at the time was that 2019 changes would allow closer racing, which doesn’t seem to have happened. They said it would reduce front wing outwash, but TW said they had gotten around that in late-2018. They said it would slow cars by 1.5sec. Granted, it may have reduced the progress, but they are not generally slower than last year. And all of this was done while using the 2-car wind tunnel. Which is concerning, even if it is being implemented on cars that are not 2021 spec, whatever that ends up being.

              I’ll grant you that at the time they said this was sort of a “halfway house” for development in looking toward 2021. But it didn’t seem to work. And if it did, they really need to be better about explaining how it has worked–even if we can’t quite see it on track. I’d be more optimistic if they showed data that indicated this is the right path. Or if they said, we needed to try this and see if it works or rule it out as a development path. Something.

              To this point, solutions by the OWG (and Brawn and other similar studies) have either not been implemented or have been shown to be non-effective (either because they were watered down, teams designed around them effectively, or because they just didn’t work as they thought). So I’m skeptical that this time will be different. That’s all.

            3. @hobo Fair comment. I won’t belabour my opinion other than to say again that I was never expecting much with a minor front wing change, albeit that resulted in a few other tweaks, because these cars simply do not lend themselves to close racing. I’m sure the ever so finicky tires have muddied things as well.

              What was from the BE era is not to be confused with what will be from the Liberty/Brawn era starting in 2021. The wind tunnel work they have been doing since BE left has also been like nothing we have seen before and also should not be confused with efforts that went virtually nowhere in the past, as evidenced by the cars Liberty has inherited that need to be totally scrapped in favour of the new era cars. The only thing that will be the same in 2021 is the Pu.

            4. @robbie – I’ve noticed your opinion has been consistent on what you expected from 2019 aero.

              Again, I hope you’re right for 2021. We’ll see.

      2. @skipgamer

        We are witnessing one of the greatest drivers ever in one of the best teams ever to steam roll anything that get’s thrown at them.

        This is history in the making.

        Mercedes Benz !!! The best or Nothing !!!

    8. Adam (@rocketpanda)
      6th July 2019, 16:08

      One good race doesn’t change the fact things haven’t been going so well lately for F1. If anything, figures within the sport ‘talking down’ about the state of F1 shows how deep the hole is becoming – its an attempt to provoke the change that’s needed. If we just bury our heads in the sand and don’t criticise when it needs to be criticised it can never improve and its clear to any fan of the sport that some things need to be improved.

    9. It’s sport and 1 team ended up with the best design, best engineers that can produce the design, best team to keep the cars maintained. The scary thing is that many people don’t believe HAM and BOT are the best drivers thus team Mercedes is killing the competition without the best drivers.

    10. Without Verstappen it wouldnt be what it is at all.

      Imagine F1 the last 4 years without Verstappen.

      1. I think without Max F1 was very boring….

    11. He’s just letting some steam out after that weekend

    12. No wonder he is having enough of moaners and hypocrites – recently they became too numerous in and around F1.

      Hope they all just leave to watch Indycar or WWE – right choice of sports for them.

    13. Funny how many people would decry socialism but are begging for it in F1.

    14. F1 wants to move to F0.9.

    15. Bernie Ecclestone (as Brahbam manager), Toto Wolff.
      The most annoying guys in F1 history. Period.

    16. The reason why the Austrian GP so much more entertaining was because the two second tier teams were fighting for the win and the Mercs didn’t perform for whatever season that was given post race. Maybe Mercedes were told to tone it down for the good of the sport seen as though they have pretty much won the 2019 championships. My guess is that Hamilton will win Silverstone comfortably and Mercedes will be back on top…comfortably.

      As for Mercedes cooling issues or running the engines at lower power just goes to show how their drivers were made to look average without having the best car. What I mean by this is that give the top 6-8 drivers a great car they too would be able to win most races.

      1. Yes it’s always easy to win if you have the fastest car. That’s all it is really. Ferrari had the fastest car all weekend and they finished 1-2 on the podium. Oh wait, no they didn’t! Neither did they in Canada, Bahrain or Baku where they had the fastest car. How odd. Maybe it’s more than just “the fastest” car?

        So would you want to revise that statement to “give the top 6- drivers a great car, barring Ferrari, they too would be able to win most races”?

        1. @f1osaurus Ferrari are a strange phenomenon. Apparently in 2019, they’ll lose even if their drivers start the race 1-2 2 laps ahead :-D

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