Toto Wolff has heaped praise on outgoing Mercedes-Benz head Dieter Zetsche for keeping Mercedes in Formula 1 throughout a difficult period upon its return to the sport.

The Mercedes name returned to F1 in 2010 following a half-century absence after their owners, Daimler AG, bought a stake in the Brawn GP outfit and rebranded.

Mercedes initially struggled for competitiveness early on but has been the dominant force of F1 since the switch to V6 hybrid power units in 2014. The German manufacturer has recorded five consecutive world championship doubles and is on course to make it six after a strong start to the 2019 season.

In his last race representing Mercedes as CEO of the Daimler group, Zetsche witnessed Mercedes secure its fifth straight one-two finish of the year at the Spanish Grand Prix.

“There are not many CEOs that have empowered a group of people like you did,” Wolff said as he addressed Zetsche when the German door-stepped Wolff’s post-race media call.

“Leaving us on the long leash, letting us represent this fantastic brand. And we did it with pride and with great responsibility.

“You went through a storm in 2010, 11 and '12 when the car was going backwards and even in '13 it was not always great.

“And you stuck to Formula 1 as a CEO of Daimler like no other corporate has ever done, and now we are harvesting this and it's great to see you up there.

“You deserve all the credit. You have built the structure.”

Race-winner Lewis Hamilton, who moved from McLaren to Mercedes ahead of the 2013 season, also praised Zetsche’s heavy influence on his career.

The Briton has gone on to claim four of the last five drivers’ world championship titles and holds a seven-point advantage over Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in the 2019 standings.

“It’s just an incredible day for the team,” Hamilton said. “We brought an upgrade here, and everyone worked so hard to make sure we brought a decent upgrade, something that delivered on every aspect.

“I’m very, very proud of everyone back in the factory, and thankful for all their hard work. The guys here at the track, they’re just always faultless. But still a huge thank you to them for their continued work.

“We’ve also got Dr. Zetsche here. He’s been a massive supporter of mine since I was 13. He was there in the decision-making process of taking me on as a kid, when I started and went to McLaren.

“He was part of the decision-making process of when I got a Formula 1 drive in 2007, and then joining this team again, and then every year on from then when we had to re-sign. This is his last race with us, and I just want to say a big thank you to him.”

 

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