Red Bull approached 100 Mercedes engine staff and got 15 – Wolff

2021 Spanish Grand Prix

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Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff has revealed Red Bull tried to recruit 100 of the staff at Mercedes-Benz High Performance Powertrains for its new power unit facility.

Red Bull Powertrains has been set up at their base in Milton Keynes to run the team’s Honda power units after the manufacturer leaves the sport at the end of the year.

Yesterday Red Bull confirmed five engineers with Mercedes experience, most of which had been permanent staff, had joined their Powertrains division. They will join Mercedes’ head of mechanical engineering Ben Hodgkinson, who Red Bull confirmed as the project’s technical director last month.

But Wolff said only a small number of the staff approached by Red Bull had joined the team.

“It’s pretty obvious that if you want to set up an engine factory in the UK, there’s only one and that’s us,” he told Sky. “We have 900 or so employees there. And if you’re fishing out 15 of these or so, that’s that’s pretty normal.

“But they went mainly after manufacturing staff so it’s not really [for] performance. I guess they want to build up the company. But credit to the project, it’s a Mount Everest to climb and I’d like to have a fight with Red Bull power units.”

“I think they have approached 100 people or and they got 15, maybe,” he added.

Wolff did not deny he offered to double the salaries of his staff in order to encourage them to stay, as claimed by Red Bull motorsport Helmut Marko. But he suggested Red Bull’s offers may have gone beyond that.

“Doubling the salaries is one thing but if you triple them, at a certain stage, you’re not going to compete anymore, even for loyal people.

“But it is what it is. I respect everybody that wants to defend his business or build their business and retaliation time has not yet come.”

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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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18 comments on “Red Bull approached 100 Mercedes engine staff and got 15 – Wolff”

  1. I feel happy for these behind-the-scenes staff who seldom get credit for the great work they do unlike the top drivers and management that shows up on race weekends.

    Good to know that the purse strings are being loosened to poach them and they get the compensation they truly deserve.

    I am surprised at the numbers though. Doubling of salaries to match a competitor offer! Haven’t heard that in any other domain

    1. Indeed, good on them. It’s a tough job, so they deserve to be paid well.

      Such a salary increase does show that it was not a hugely competitive labor market.

    2. So in fact they only had half the salary they deserved at Mercedes.
      That’s a good incentive to look for other employment.

      And btw, does this tell us that of now.. 90 people at mercedes receive the salary they deserve?

      1. That’s not how it works. It not half the salary they deserved at Mercedes at all. Maybe Red Bull are overpaying, have you considered that?

        1. If your staff is so essential you offer them double salary to stay there is something very wrong.
          They will leave you (as shown by the numbers) and Red Bull reaps the profits.
          And of course.. if someone is willing to pay you a lot more there are several parameters that will depend if they stay or leave. salary is one but not always the most important one.
          look at Newey. Mercedes and ferrari offered him a lot of money but Red Bull keeps him happy.
          Money is not always the most important factor (as Totot seems to think) in keeping your staff.
          And keeping your very large staff happy was a very long time a important part of my work.

          1. It doesn’t work that way. Mercedes is probably paying their engineers more than fairly and keeping their employees happy. But if Red Bull is offering something absurd, it can be pretty tough to turn down no matter how loyal they are, so they’re splitting the difference.

            Newey also doesn’t work as an example. His salary is $10.2 million dollars. Money doesn’t mean anything to him anymore. Even if Mercedes was going to offer him $30 million, his quality of life isn’t going to change at all. In that case, money isn’t a reason to make a major change in your life.

            Let’s just say the engineers are making $100,000 since it makes the math easy. Going to $300,000 is a major change and will have a significant impact on your quality of life. $200,000 is a pretty good compromise as it’s still a significant bump, and you get to stay where you’re comfortable.

            The staff also isn’t that essential to Mercedes unless they’re losing the majority of them. It’d be pretty easy to replace a third of the staff with extremely talented and hungry engineers straight out of school.

      2. I agree with erikje on this. Its a pandemic year expenses are being managed under every head, including personnel. If the same staff is paid double the salary, this means that there is scope to pay that much even if it is for the purpose of retention, which otherwise wouldn’t have been paid if Red Bull had not come with an offer.

  2. “I respect everybody that wants to defend his business or build their business and retaliation time has not yet come.”

    Sounds menacing, but also.. contradictory?

    1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      7th May 2021, 18:33

      @minilemm not at all. Toto is from finance, a true shark tank and what F1 bosses think they are but aren’t! He knows how the game is played. At the same time as welcoming the competition and wishing his former employees well, He’ll wait until they establish themselves as a successful PU manufacturer and then poach some of that knowledge back.

      1. Yeah that could well be what he meant. Good point.
        Maybe there’s something else at the back there as well… say RBR’s aero department. Or a driver? (I dont actually believe so hah)

  3. Sweet lord, triple sallary. So naturally cost cap is not a problem for engine development?

    I wonder how much aero benefit will the new engine have soon.

  4. 15% is a pretty decent haul.
    Obviously, Horner recorded a message once and sent it on WhatsApp to the hundred likeliest candidates, together with a video of Geri. Still you expect the top team not to haemorrhage engineers at the drop of a hat.

  5. Facepalm :) He seems a bit annoyed that someone else is using his tactics.

  6. “Retaliation time?” Settle down, Toto.

  7. as Toto seems to think

    So you know how to manage F1 personnel better than Toto? Lol – you really see everything in the comments.

  8. I don’t think that 15 from 900 is a low number. Specially because we are talking that all these 15 are from engine area that counts, at most, 1/3 of 900. And of course that Hodgkinson knew exactly who he needed. They approached 100 and got 15. I’m not saying Mercedes is losing a lot. But they are losing some good people. This will affect development in the year before freeze. This will help a bit Renault and Ferrari. They’ll bring some insight in a few problems with these engines that may help Honda’s PU.
    But the most important aspect is. RB doesn’t have an engine development team. Honda won’t leave their personnel, or at least not all. Now RB needs to start creating their team and phishing some from biggest rival help 2 ways… Help them to get better solutions, as Mercs are the best for now, and, as I said, help delay at least a bit Germans.
    Totto is underplaying how much important this is.

  9. Ian Stephens
    9th May 2021, 12:07

    I worked in a technical management role for many years and we always wanted 8-12% staff turnover per year so on that basis this is not a disaster. The problem was always to try to ensure that the best ones stayed and we only lost the ones we wanted to. That needed pay incentives to keep the best.

    In fact we estimated that a good technician was worth 8-10 times what the worst was worth, but we could never get away with that kind of pay differential, so even the worst performers we overpaid just to keep the best. We also relied on a lot of non-financial incentives and perks. (To be honest we also took advantage of the risk-averse behaviour of people supporting young families.)

    I am sure Toto is on top of this.

    1. This is quite fascinating to me, not being from a managerial background. What would you base your criteria on as far as desirability to maintain certain staff over others? Ability? Company fit? Dedication? Would you have certain staff for shorter term projects knowing you wouldn’t be keeping them on in the long term? What types of incentives and perks? What qualities would make one staff member worth that much more than another? I suppose I just assumed that for the most part, all would have the same basic education and knowledge, then the only difference would be real world experience, and of course attitude, desire, those types of things?

      Reply moderated

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