Sebastian Vettel, Toto Wolff, Spa-Francorchamps, 2018

Wolff: Vettel would have marketing appeal but Mercedes has long-term strategy for drivers

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In the round-up: Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admits hiring Sebastian Vettel would have marketing value for Mercedes but stresses the team is “pursuing a long-term strategy” with its driver line-up.

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Comment of the day

The Limit also thinks it’s time for Sebastian Vettel to hang up his helmet:

I like Sebastian Vettel. He always has something to say to the media and comes across as approachable and has a personality that adds to the entertainment value. I remember when Mika Hakkinen retired back in 2001 I was devastated, I felt he still had more to give and had retired too young. At that time, Michael Schumacher was in his pomp in a car that was superior to everything else on the grid, much like with Hamilton and Mercedes. Nearly two decades later it is clear that Hakkinen made the right choice, and although Vettel has different reasons if he does indeed retire, it would be the right choice.

In an earlier post, a fella said that Vettel’s Ferrari career was over following last year’s disastrous Brazilian Grand Prix and his crash with Charles Leclerc. I agree, in my opinion, that incident cemented minds at Maranello that Leclerc was the future and Vettel was the past.

If reports are true, Vettel was on a salary of $30 million a year. $30 million is a lot of money for the amount of mistakes Sebastian was making, and Brazil was the perfect example of that. Maybe deep down, even then, Sebastian may have already known that his number was up. He is not stupid, he has been in the sport of F1 long enough to know how things work, and to know when a team is preparing to dump you. If Vettel goes, it will be a sad moment for the fact that it will be another champion retiring. However, in my opinion, retirement has more dignity in it than staying as Vettel was in a team that had clearly decided that he was past news.
The Limit

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On this day in F1

Carlos Reutemann, Williams, Monaco, 1980
Carlos Reutemann, Williams, Monaco, 1980
  • 40 years ago today Carlos Reutemann won the Monaco Grand Prix after pole sitter Didier Pironi crashed

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  • 51 comments on “Wolff: Vettel would have marketing appeal but Mercedes has long-term strategy for drivers”

    1. Looking at that photo has reminded me, there’s something about the way Monaco’s red and white kerbs meet the circuit without a white line that looks really pleasing. I wish more circuits did this

      1. Might as well when no one really cares about track limits anyway..

    2. Fans are paying for satellite subscriptions and buying tickets to the tracks to watch the races… If they are not satisfied with the terrible racing that Mr. Tilke’s designs allow for these cars to put on. Maybe he should try to understand the root cause of the issue instead of coming up with explanations for his work.

      1. Mr Tilke is employed on contract. If his designs don’t meet the expectations of his employer then maybe he’ll get paid for that job, but he won’t get any other work. The fact he keeps getting employed means his work does meet their expectations. I suspect there’s a whole lot of factors that contribute to the undynamism of F1 races, most of which have little to do with the design of the track.

        1. The man has some faults. Look at abu dhabi for example. Iirc all the buildings were placed before he could start drawing up the circuit but even then the circuit he came up with is just bad in every way. The racing is bad, the drivers don’t like it and it is just chicane after chicane.

          1. @faulty The quality of racing as @drycrust points out has more to do with aero than track designs (except for Monaco), though.
            @socksolid I’m in the minority. I do like driving the Yas Marina Circuit. Yes, the lap could be more flowing, but not the worst circuit ever. I enjoy driving it more than, for example, Circuit de Catalunya or Hungaroring to name a couple.

        2. Just because he meets “the client’s expectations” doesn’t mean we have to like the circuits @drycrust!

          For me there is nothing wrong with the run off areas, it’s the unimaginative corner design that too often features constant radius turns requiring a repetitive technique from the driver. I think I will do a survey one day of Tilke corners with a constant radius, and I wager it is more than two thirds, and that cannot be blamed on motorbikes. It’s lazy design, pure and simple and Yas Marina is it’s exemplary.

          1. Taking a square to the Lake’s esses at Mexico City is another example of his laziness. Again, what was the justification for that?

            When you have Interlagos’ quirky not-the-product-of-a-cookie-cutter character, and time and time again the track puts on a thriller of a race, what’s the reasoning for his designed by template philosophy?

    3. That photo…. Carlos Reutemann, Williams, Monaco, 1980 What a hideous blob of a car.

      1. @tenerifeman hope you’re being ironic!

      2. Haha @tenerifeman I agree with you. Of course it’s subjective but I’ve a always found that era of cars visually unappealing. I’ve never cared too much about how they look but some designs just stand out as ugly. I watched the 2012 valencia race yesterday and thought those cars were terrible (the race was superb though, what a season that was).

      3. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        18th May 2020, 9:54

        Well beauty is in the eye of the beholder and for me the FW07 is a beauty. Not quite as beautiful as the car it inspired it, the Lotus 79, but lovely never the less.

        That period for me, late 70’s early eighties were the halcyon days of F1, but I guess its different for every body.

        1. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk
          It’s also the last time that the word Leyland appeared on anything that was a winner!

          1. F1 2020 Ted’s Notebook – 20.05

    4. “Long-term strategy with drivers” is BS when one of them is on one-year contracts.

      And for a team boss to not even play interested in Vettel in order to get a better deal for the team with Hamilton, is poor.

      But no surprises here. This is Wolff. Disrespecting the second driver and doing everything not to upset his first.

      1. “Long-term strategy with drivers”

        @balue – hey, he didn’t say current drivers. ;)


        1. Ah, maybe coughing even in comments is not a wise move these days. The old-new joke: I typed “cough” and the antivirus on my PC started.

        2. ColdFly (@)
          18th May 2020, 8:30

          But Vettel-Russell would be just as good as, or even better than, Hamilton-Russell.
          Either way, I cannot see Bottas being part of the long-term plan. (wash hands)

      2. Ah, the good old “I know better than one of the most successful team bosses ever”.

        1. Ah, the good old “People at the top of organizations are infallible and should never be questioned, ever”

        2. ColdFly (@)
          18th May 2020, 8:41

          @LosD, for all we know @Balue might be a more successful leader than the team boss you seem to trust blindly.
          Next time try arguing the point he is making!
          Analysing the actions of the people in charge might tear ‘back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing’.

          1. @coldfly What point? My main issue is that there isn’t really one, other than some weird idea that feigning interest would magically put pressure on Hamilton. Most of the post is pretending he knows about Merc’s driver strategy, “That is poor leadership, because I say it is” and “he’s afraid of Hamilton”.

            1. ColdFly (@)
              18th May 2020, 9:57

              What point?

              Of course difficult to argue if you don’t see the points he is making:
              1) apparent inconsistency of long-term strategy with one-year extensions.
              2) showing interest in Vettel as leverage when negotiating with Hamilton.
              The last line indeed seems more of an emotional outburst of opinions, but that shouldn’t have stopped you from taking the high road, @LosD.

            2. Thanks @coldfly, but having to explain obvious points is anyway meaningless as it either means the objector does not grasp basic rationale or have some ulterior motive for feigning it.

      3. Is there not the problem that it would be too obvious that it is nothing more than an attempted negotiation tactic?

        If it is that obvious, it’s going to fail from the outset – so why bother wasting time on something that everyone will see through immediately and thus have no effect?

        1. anon, there must be a break-even point where the remuneration difference offsets the expected performance difference.

        2. You mean like Hamilton wanting to leave the most successful team in F1 and go to no-hoper Ferrari?

          Mercedes has just had a change of leadership with Ola Kallenius heading Daimler. For all anybody knows the whole team might be shut down, so the idea that he would want a German driver representing Mercedes in F1 could not be discounted. With likely upcoming cutbacks, it could also be an argument made to get a cheaper driver, or at the very least reduce the current salaries.

          1. Josh (@canadianjosh)
            18th May 2020, 22:02

            This is a great point.

          2. @balue quite a few of those “Hamilton to Ferrari” stories really seem to be driven more by the journalists saying what they want to see happen, rather than what is credible – how many of them actually mentioned anything about contract talks and instead seemed to be opinion pieces about how Ferrari should be hiring him? There’s very little evidence that anybody seems to have treated those as anything more than the wishes of the writers themselves.

            As for comments about a cheaper driver, Vettel was a driver who commanded the second highest salary in the field ($30 million according to Dieter) in 2019 – that’s not exactly a big reduction. If that is what Vettel feels that his worth is in the marketplace, why would he drop his rate card so dramatically? If he really is meant to be worth that much commercially to Mercedes, why then wouldn’t he demand, and indeed expect, to get a salary that reflects the value that he would supposedly bring to the team in that situation?

            Equally, is being German really the be all and end all that people make it out to be? You note Ola Källenius is at Daimler, but he is a Swedish citizen who has spent time studying in Switzerland and working in both the United States and the United Kingdom as well, meaning that he is an individual who is used to working in an international environment.

            Being German did not really do anything for Pascal Wehrlein in the long term – Mercedes actively agreed to let him go – and he’s been the only German driver in their Junior Team so far. They’ve not sought out German drivers for their Formula E team either, even though Källenius is keen on boosting Mercedes’s presence in the field of electric motorsport and making that a second flagship series for the brand.

            I don’t get the impression that having a German driver really is anywhere near as essential to Källenius as you think it is. Furthermore, as I understand it, the German public isn’t really that interested in Vettel either – it’s not to say they dislike him, rather that there seems to be a sense of apathy and that Vettel really hasn’t captured the popular imagination in the way that, to go back a generation, Michael Schumacher did then, or the way that Leclerc and Verstappen have drawn public attention today.

            The current Mercedes team doesn’t really seem to be promoting itself as being a particularly German effort – why would Mercedes want to move away from the image they have now, particularly in order to adopt as a talisman a driver whom the German public seems to mostly shrug their shoulders at in a sense of disinterest?

            The irony is that, whilst complaining about the spuriousness of those promoting a “Hamilton to Ferrari” story, you seem to want to try and manufacture a “Vettel to Mercedes” story that is in very much the same vein – in essence, you seem to be guilty of the very same behaviour you condemn others for.

            1. Never did I say it was essential to be German. That’s a straw man argument. I’m simply responding to the notion that it would be completely out of the question to have Vettel there and now you argue about the value of being German when the whole point here is that the Mercedes boss himself highlights it. And about salary how can you possibly say it would be out of the question that Vettel would drive for much less in order to be in a position to outbid Hamilton and secure the seat? You can’t, yet you make that as a basis for any Vettel transfer.

              About the last chapter I don’t understand your logic at all. Mercedes is the coveted seat that everyone wants to be in, not Ferrari. Saying that the notion that Vettel would want to drive for Mercedes is ‘spurious’ doesn’t even makes sense. It’s simply plain obvious to everyone and their dog that he would be interested to go there, and is even the basis of the comments of the Mercedes boss in the ORF article here.

            2. @balue much of your original post seems to be a case of you projecting your own desires onto the situation and wanting to change reality to your liking.

              You’ve made it pretty clear that you dislike Hamilton, wittering on about “not wanting to upset bromances” and moaning about how a great driver like Vettel can’t get a seat, and therefore want to project a situation where Vettel gets Hamilton’s seat because that is a situation that appeals far more to you. In doing so, you seem to be unable to move past your own preferences and prefer instead to want to bend the world to your will, making it that suddenly all issues might suddenly disappear – it doesn’t feel as if we’re discussing what is credible, we’re discussing what your desires are instead.

            3. Ah, a Hamilton fan. That explains it all. Simply attack whatever, no need for rational argument. Just too typical.

    5. The empty stands problem could be solved if tracks followed the example of South Korean football team, FC Seoul, who used “premium mannequins” – aka sex dolls, to create atmosphere! There was the added benefit to the team, as some of the dolls were holding signs advertising sex websites.

      I’m sure Bernie would have approved, so long as the Rolex of mannequins was on display.

      1. Josh (@canadianjosh)
        18th May 2020, 22:06

        Black tranny mannequins eating plant based hamburgers would be even more appealing and would cover most bases.

        1. Rather specific tastes you have there, Josh… whatever floats your boat!

    6. Circuit designer Hermann Tilke is frustrated by criticism of the large run-off areas his track designs tend to feature, as they are necessary for motorbike racing.

      Can he explain then how on Termas de Río Hondo, circuit specifically designed for motorbike racing by Jarno Zafelli, there are only few very small patches of asphalt run-off?

      1. Also, looking at the list of tracks designed by Tilke (although I see many lists are incomplete), I can barely see any that has been used both for major car (especially F1) and motorobike racing. Sepang is one, but there’s not even much tarmac run-off (and those were added in the later years), and COTA is the other.

        Although the problems created by this aren’t on him alone I think, sure he designed some of those circuits originally with a lot of tarmac run-offs, but the ones later added to the circuits can be just as annoying. (I didn’t include the Red Bull Ring before, because I’m not sure if he was responsible for the run-offs added for its 2014 return)
        I think they should create a run-off layout, where if you go off straight you find yourself on a tarmac run-off, so you don’t damage your car, but when you try to come back on the circuit, you either need to cut across some gravel or grass, or go around a larger patch on a slower tarmac route.

        …Just as I was writing that, I remembered that it is exactly how they modified the first turn at Zandvoort for this year, and I think that’s a model they should be following and implementing wherever possible.

        1. @armchairexpert And I like that you pointed out Zaffelli, his design studio is the one implementing the Zandvoort changes and I remember he was also responsible for the Sepang changes, I think his works are generally much more practical and enjoyable than those of Tilke.

          1. Actually I just drove the updated version of Zandvoort on rFactor2, and apparently this model is used on two more corners around the track, which is great!

    7. They have a really promising talent in Russell waiting in the wings… Ocon would do anything to get out of a Renault contract when Toto gives him a call… and if nothing else, Ricciardo will be available in a couple of seasons time as well.

      There’s no use for Vettel here.

        F1 2020 Ted’s Notebook – 20.05

    8. If Wolff is not interested in Vettel I’m sure the other nine teams will soon be fighting for his signature. No? No takers?

    9. I like how the people that were crossed about Rosberg retiring earlier are the ones asking for Seb to retire due to dignity. It’s something that has managed to offer quite a few laughs

      He will do whatever he wants and dignity is not involved, and I’m pretty sure he will keep racing, F1 or ortherwise

    10. The comment of the day is thoughtful and well written. I also thought that Mika – my all-time favourite F1 driver – retired too early, but that gives me a new perspective to think about.

      Vettel is a strange one. Away from his car he’s the one of the most likeable drivers on the grid. I’ve always found him charming, funny, and above all else, genuine. During the Hamilton-Rosberg years at Mercedes, I’d cringe every time they were on the podium together, because they’d try so hard to outdo each other in appealing to the fans, and it didn’t come naturally to either of them. It felt so vapid. Vettel is the opposite. Go look up some of his exchanges with the media on Youtube and you should see what I mean. He’s comfortable on camera and he’s willing to speak his mind. I appreciate that in a driver.

      Inside the car, however, or when he’s just stepped out of it at the end of a race, he’s a completely different personality. He gets angry and petulant when things aren’t going his way. There’s no defence for the time he deliberately rammed his car into Hamilton’s; he should have been black-flagged, not slapped on the wrist. Some of the things he’s said about other drivers during a race have crossed the line of indecency, and swapping the 1 and 2 markers after last year’s Canadian GP was childish and pointless, albeit harmless.

      That second side of his personality, the dreary years of Red Bull dominance (which I’m not criticising him for in the slightest) and my general antipathy towards Ferrari have stopped me from ever being able to root for him, which is a shame, because I really do like the first side. I’ll be happy if he stays in the sport, falls back in love with it and loses some of childish side, but perhaps he’s self-aware enough to know that won’t happen, in which case, I’d respect his decision to take an early retirement.

      1. @estesar Very good comment and I agree completely. He might be very well suited for a commentator role in the future.

    11. Regarding the COTD, I think Ferrari management must have started doubting after the failed 2017 campaign. Ferrari had a car on par with Mercedes and Vettel threw the challenge away with incidents like Baku and Singapore.

      After the 2018 capmaign where Vettel completely blundered away the season (with actually a better car), the must have know Vettel needed to leave.

      So they got Leclerc into the team as a shock hire to see if he wasn’t better than Vettel. After the first few races it was already clear that Leclerc was better than Vettel. Brazil just showed how desperate Vettel had gotten knowing that he was on his way out or could only stay as a #2 driver to Leclerc.

    12. Thats the only thing that Vettel has is marketing appeal, there are a ton of better drivers on the grid that will score a lot more points

      1. @carlosmedrano Does he have even that though? He never managed to attract enough fans to come to the German GP.

    13. F1 should have 3 cars for the top 4 teams, that way we could see 3 top drivers in equal cars, there wouldn’t be a Number 2 driver since now you have 3 drivers for the same team, similar to F-Indy. I would love to see Hamilton-Riccardo-Alonso battle it out in a Mercedes.

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