2 February 2014
Wolff: F1 team principal a thing of the past
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff explains why the familiar team principal role is going the way of the dinosaur.
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff is adamant that the management structure now in place at the marque's F1 team is the right one for the way the sport is evolving.
Speaking before former team principal Ross Brawn announced that, following his December exit from the Brackley-based squad, he would be quitting F1 altogether, Wolff insisted that doing away with the long-standing front man role was simply a means of tackling the modern demands of the sport.
"The [team principal] position is a thing of the past," the Austrian told the official F1 website, "You don't have the equivalent of a team principal in any other sport, let alone companies.
“Look at football: you have a trainer, then you have a team manager and then you have the man who is looking after the commercial side. The team principal position comes from the team founders - those iconic men who founded the teams: Frank Williams, Ken Tyrrell and even Ron Dennis, who were running every aspect of their teams."
Wolff has assumed joint responsibility for the Mercedes AMG Petronas team with former McLaren technical chief Paddy Lowe, taking on the roles of executive director for business and technical matters respectively.
“The structure we have decided to implement is one of clear competencies and skills within the management,” Wolff explained, “Paddy's skills are clearly on the technical and racing side, and my mind set is more on the commercial and business side. But the main focus is not on how we divide the work, it is on the fact that we work together as a team to combine our skills. I would say it is like any other major corporation: there is not that one guy on the board who is making all the decisions - it is divided by competency.”
Other teams also appear to be following suit, with fewer individuals holding the position of team principal as founders are gradually replaced by new faces. Of the old guard, only Williams remains at the head of his team, although Dennis recently returned to head up McLaren, albeit from a position more lofty than team principal. The Woking was expected to replace Martin Whitmarsh with Eric Boullier ahead of the 2014 campaign but, when the Frenchman was eventually confirmed last week, it was in the position of 'racing director' reporting to an as yet unnamed CEO.
"The times where one person decided over politics, shareholder issues, organisation management and actual racing doesn't exist any longer," Wolff concluded, “I think the environment of F1 has always been very competitive, but what we are seeing now is like competiveness 'squared'. Having said that, you cannot allow weak points within the dynamics of an organisation, so you have to constantly scrutinise how you want an organisation to function - and this is linked to personalities and characters, and to skills and competencies.
“Every player in a team that is part of a global sport has first to fully understand his role - and then commit fully to this part. The times where one person decided over politics, shareholder issues, organisation management and actual racing doesn't exist any longer. We believe our management structure is the right answer to the needs of a modern F1 team."
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