15 April 2013
F1 China 2013: Toto Wolff to sever last Williams ties
Toto Wolff is to sell his 16 per cent stake in the Williams F1 team now that he's completed his move to rivals Mercedes - but only to the right buyer.
Mercedes' new motorsports director Toto Wolff has confirmed that he's to end his last business links with Williams F1, where he was executive director of the F1 team until 2012.
He's currently seeking a buyer for his 16 per cent stake in the team, which he purchased in 2009.
Initially, when he announced that he was quitting the team where his wife Susie still works as a test and development driver, Wolff said he would keep the shares. But he revealed in China this weekend that further discussion with his new bosses at Mercedes had led him to agree to sever the last financial ties with his former team in order to avoid any appearance of 'conflict of interest.'
"Even if operationally it is not a conflict, because here [at Mercedes] I am a director and I'm not there [at Williams] any more, it doesn't give a good light," he told Reuters in Shanghai. "But I owe Frank [Williams] and the family and the whole team there to do it with responsibility. I cannot just go into the market and say 'who wants to buy these shares?' and that's it."
Wolff said that he would only sell to someone who was "responsible" and understood the sport and that he was under no time pressure from Mercedes to expedite the sale.
"Toto is a big shareholder and he's a great shareholder," said Claire Williams, Sir Frank's daughter and the newly appointed deputy principal of the team. "I think if Toto does sell, he would be responsible as to the buyer he sells it to," she added. "I know he wouldn't do anything to harm the team."
With Wolff on the management board, Williams won their first Grand Prix in eight years in 2012 when Pastor Maldonado clinched victory in the Spanish Grand Prix last season. However, since then the once-mighty team has slumped once more and has failed to score any points at all so far in 2013.
In China, the team's new rookie driver Valtteri Bottas finished 13th just ahead of Maldonado, with both drivers running three-stop strategies.
"We planned to do three stops with both cars but decided to run one car on the option to start and one to finish," said technical director Mike Coughlan. "We knew that both strategies, if the drivers weren't caught in traffic, would be very similar as seen by ours cars finishing just 1.6 seconds apart at the end.
"We got the maximum we could out of the FW35 today, but we know we still need to find more performance," he added.
The Chinese GP was the first time so far this season that Maldonado has actually made it all the way to the finish line, so for the Venezuelan even 14th place was something of a success story. "We didn't have a chance to fight for any higher positions and we know we are still far away from where we want to be, but we will keep our focus on improving," he said, blaming time lost on the first stint of the race on the options tyres.
"I think it was the best race I have done this season but we need to find more pace to get closer to the front," added Bottas of his own afternoon, which ended up in an all-Williams battle to the line.
"I knew it was going to be close with Pastor at the end, so I was pushing hard in my final stint on the medium tyres," he said. "I was then right behind him on the faster option tyres and so able to make a move on the penultimate lap. It was a nice end to the race but we still need to improve so we can race for points."
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