Tag Archives: Toto Wolff

Formula One: Three Car Teams and Budget Caps

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Formula One 2018 is delivering everything and anything a fan of the sport could imagine. From the #FightForFive, to a Hollywood worthy #SillySeason, to midseason team takeovers, new logos, fonts, and of course the epic theme music from Brian Tyler. Yet bubbling just below the surface political games, regulation frustration, and the adage of money talks, continue to put into question how the sport will evolve in the near future.

Two such pressing topics to explore are the number of seats on the grid heading into 2019, and the evaluation of budget caps with the objective of equalising performance. On the face of it there is no simple solution to either issue. On the topic of budget caps, figures in the region of €200-€250M per season with a soft launch in 2019 followed by a regulated implementation from 2020 onwards have been touted by Ross Brawn and fellow F1 management.  Top flight teams have baulked at the prospect of cutting annual expenditure in half and categorically stated that without significant job cuts the target is not achievable. More efficient teams see the cut as insufficient as the spending to the budget cap would still represent more than double their existing spending capability.

That being said, there is a general acceptance Budget Caps are coming and that they will be good for motorsport in general. Top teams are taking steps to prepare for this more regulated future, as referenced on this site a number of months ago. Taking this preparation one step further, could a budget cap combined with a third car allowance be a solution?

Major costs associated with operating a manufacturer supported Formula One team take the form of fixed costs, these include factors such as facilities & employees. The manufacturing of additional race cars would not have a significant impact on the team’s operating budget. In fact, in many cases, top teams will have 3-4 fully operational race prepared cars before the start of a new F1 season. If top teams committed to operating a third car with no increase in the overall operating budget of the team in essence redirecting development budget to operating a third car, therefore reducing the performance gap to the midfield, F1 could solve the pressing issue of a too many high quality drivers and not enough seats and address the B Class championship regularly referenced when drivers in midfield teams discuss the sport.

In order to reduce the prospect of a single team dominating podium proceedings, restrictions, such as the number of races completed, or championship points scored, could be put in place regarding the experience of a team’s third driver. In addition, a team’s third car could be operated from a separate garage space with an alternative livery to ensure a vibrant look to the grid.

Formula One could mandate the that the top 4 teams in the WCC could be eligible to run a third car with the option to sell this provision should they deem the opportunity not relevant to their operating model. i.e. Should Haas or Racing Point finish 4th in the WCC they could sell their 3rd car allocation to McLaren. Or should Red Bull Racing see their existing model with Toro Rosso to better suit the way in which they go racing they could sell the space to another team.

If Formula One were to explore this route, Ferrari could continue to maintain it’s line up of Kimi Räikkonen & Sebastian Vettel, with Charles Leclerc taking the third car. Mercedes could bring George Russell into the team, Red Bull Racing could not offer Fernando Alonso a seat again, and Renault could bring Esteban Ocon on board alongside Ricciardo and Hulkenberg.

Timed with a budget cap which should limit in-season development for teams running third drivers, the performance gap to the two car teams could be minimised bringing the entire field closer together and sustaining the credibility of young driver development programmes.

Toto Wolff has intimidated Formula One should seriously explore regulations around three car teams, with Liberty becoming the promoter of Formula 2 and the soon to be reborn Formula 3, three car teams may be required to ensure participation remains relevant to the next generation of drivers.

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Formula One: The Business of F1

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As a keen and vocal fan of Formula One I often find myself being asked why? What could be interesting about watching a bunch of cars going round in circles on a Sunday afternoon?

For years I have argued that the sport is much more than the action we see on track, and that my true fascination with the sport is far more to do with the business of the sport. Followers of this site will know one of the highlights of a race weekend for me is spotting new sponsors with teams then working to find out the story behind them.

Whilst news of this nature is something easy to grasp and communicate, I have come to realise that a logo on a car or a new person joining a team is only the beginning of a story, and what really intrigues me about Formula One is personality.  I’m fascinated and inspired by stories of people who have found success in the sport that I love.

This fascination is probably why I found the UBS profile of Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, so intriguing.  I knew snippets of how Toto came to be involved in the sport, but never really had an appreciation for his background or philosophy.

 

To hear about of his humble beginning’s, his pragmatic foray into motorsport as a driver, his success during the first .com era, and how his initial move into F1 came through Frank Williams desire to pay of the mortgage on his house gave me an entirely new perspective of Toto.  More compelling is the explanation of his partnership with Mercedes Benz and the AMG Petronas Team. Rather than simply joining the team in a management capacity, Toto invested into the team believing that through having ‘skin in the game’ the will to succeed will be further heightened.

Toto goes on to explain his perspective on a modern day Formula One team, commenting that the days of a single individual overseeing every aspect of a team are a thing of the past. Success is seen through working as a team, recognising the need of having the right people around you, the need to communicate, and the need to learn new things every day.

The seemingly endless saga around who should lead the Formula One of the future often circles back to the need for a ‘dictator’ style of leadership. This is not something I have ever bought into, the approach does not work in business, why should it work in Formula One? The future of Formula One to me requires a balanced level headed individual capable of recognising the need for support from others. Perhaps in this film from UBS, Toto is positioning himself for that role?

So the next time someone asks me what it is about Formula One that I like so much, I will point them in the direction of this film and the personality it portrays.

To follow Merecedes AMG Petronas on social media click here

To follow UBS F1 on social media click here.

Formula One: Wolff: “The sport is under scrutiny”

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Toto Wolff & Paddy Lowe preview the Bahrain Grand Prix, give comment on the current qualifying quandaries and talk tyre strategy:

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
We have made a solid start to the season. However, while our advantage in Melbourne was a healthy one, it was nevertheless close enough that those bad starts could easily have lost us the race. Bahrain is a track that should suit Ferrari, so we expect even smaller gaps and a very close match this weekend. After a successful debut for the new tyre regulations last time out, we can also expect an interesting strategy battle during the race – so there is plenty to look forward to. This weekend we will see the new qualifying system continue after a less-than-impressive debut in Australia. The teams were unanimous in their opinion of it on Sunday in Melbourne and it wasn’t a positive opinion. We haven’t found the right format with this change and it’s hard to see how it might be more entertaining for the fans this weekend in Bahrain. The sport is under scrutiny on this matter, so careful thought is required in order to make coordinated, intelligent steps forward from the position we are in right now. The fans want close racing, in a format they can understand, between the best drivers and cars in the world – in that order. We should be capable of delivering that to the people in the grandstands and watching around the world.

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
Bahrain is quite a different track to Melbourne, so it will be interesting to see how we fare. One thing you can normally guarantee is that it will be dry. Unlike the rain-hit Melbourne weekend, this will provide plenty of opportunity for track time. Thanks to their evening timings, qualifying and the race in Bahrain see much cooler track temperatures than the mid-afternoon FP1 / FP3 sessions – making the latter somewhat unrepresentative. This potentially makes tyre selection even more of a factor. We know already that there is a marked difference between the allocations selected by competing teams for this race, so we could see a few surprises. A big positive from Melbourne was seeing how well the new tyre rules delivered in terms of strategy variation – and we expect to see more of the same here. We’ve seen close battles throughout the field in both years of twilight racing in Bahrain, so we look forward to hopefully providing another spectacular evening for the fans.

2016 Tyre Allocation Regulations

When revised regulations governing race weekend tyre allocations were announced for the 2016 season, it’s fair to say that there was a reasonable degree of head scratching among both pundits and fans as to just how the new system would work. However, now the dust has settled from the opening race of the year in Melbourne, two things have become clear: first, that this latest tweak to the rules is not as complex in reality as it seems on paper; second, that it’s working…

Why does making a third tyre compound available lead to greater strategic variation?
It’s simple maths. If you pick three numbers, the quantity of different combinations in which they can be arranged is notably greater than if you had two to choose from. Likewise, having three tyres compounds available to each team over a race weekend has opened up two or three viable additional strategy options.

Did the availability of a third tyre compound have an effect on the race in Melbourne?
At the 2015 Australian Grand Prix, every driver was pushed into running a one-stop strategy – starting on the soft and finishing on the medium. And, had the same tyre choices been available in 2016, they would likely have done the same. The difference this year was that teams had the scope to run two or three different strategies that could potentially converge into a roughly similar solution at the end of the race, resulting in an interesting and unpredictable mix of one and two-stoppers. Even without the red flag, it would have been a very entertaining race.

What was the impact on the racing?
Melbourne saw more overtaking than in previous years – 40 overtakes compared to 13 in 2015 – and this is down in no small part to the new tyre regulations. At other circuits where it’s tough to pass such as Barcelona, Monaco, Budapest or Singapore, track position will again become potentially less of a factor. With three compounds, the difference between the tyres can now create overtaking scenarios.

Was Melbourne a one-off or will this trend continue at other circuits?
There are already signs that more options will open up strategy-wise at the next race in Bahrain – and China looks set to be yet more exciting again. It will create exciting races where one strategy initially appears better than the other – but then that could flip. Whether more cars choose to run one, two or three stops is not important. What creates variation and excitement is that offset strategies are now perfectly valid potential race-winning options, leading to more overtaking and more unknowns towards the end of the race.

Of course, there’s a fine line between interesting strategic differences and chaos. If teams had free choice of compounds for every race, there would be potential for someone to seriously distort the competitive order. The current concept, however, appears to have found the right balance between exciting but understandable racing.

What do the teams make of the change?
Pirelli have created a compound range that promotes excitement if deployed and promoted in the right way. The world wants to see teams and drivers trying to do things differently, and these regulations empower them to do so. Tyres are now a positive talking point before a race weekend. For example, the difference in Bahrain compound nominations between the Silver Arrows and Ferrari has attracted plenty of attention. What’s more, by bringing softer compounds to each event, the target of making the cars faster has already been achieved in large part. In qualifying, lap times will now be close to circuit records in the manner we saw in Melbourne. The current cars possess historic highs of chassis and engine performance – and this is now being translated into the headline times.

Is there room for improvement?
As is to be expected, there are a couple of teething problems. For example, teams were asked to nominate their compound choices for a different set of regulations to those under which the sport is now operating for qualifying. But this is a minor complaint. Arguably, the change to the tyre rules has had more of an effect than any other in recent memory. The vast majority of people appear rather excited about its impact – and long may that continue.

Formula One: Toto Wolff ” The new qualifying is rubbish”

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Despite Lewis Hamilton setting his 50th pole position today in Melbourne Mercedes AMG Petronas Team Principle Toto Wolff was one of the first to criticise the new qualifying process calling the new system rubbish in an interview for Sky Sports F1.

Christian Horner and Niki Lauda later joined public criticism of the system and have called for the teams to agree for the system to be dropped for the 2nd race of the season. In order for the system to change mid season a unanimous decision from the teams will be required.

As suggested on this site when the system was announced the intention of the system was promising, but the practical implementation flawed.  A system in which 6 of the 8 cars taking part in the final session of qualifying only run once, leaving the circuit empty for the final 4 minutes of the session does not build to any form of crescendo, the tension of qualifying is lost.

Teams further down the field clearly didn’t quite understand the system, with the likes of Sauber and Haas sending their drivers out onto the circuit with less than 90 seconds before their driver was eliminated from the session. Team’s indicated in pre-season testing the new format was flawed and would lead to confusion and reduced track action, they must now act collectively to ensure a change.

Lewis Hamilton has called for fans of the support to use social media to share their views on the system and suggest changes.

It can be expected the FIA will act to tweak or drop the format ahead of the 2nd race of the year.

Formula One: Toto Wolff – 21 race calendar a real challenge

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In a packed out media briefing session at the Mercedes Stars and Cars event in Stuttgart Toto Wolff, when questioned about the prospect of 21 races in the 2016 Formula One Season commented that 19 races in 2015 was already a lot, with the travelling team growing tired by the end of the season.

As the team plan for the 2016 season they cannot be sure the current structure will work, this may mean that the team could look towards a 2nd shift programme for the travelling team and evaluate the way in which team members are able to ensure appropriate rest considerations are made.

Formula One management have made efforts to reduce the long haul travel requirements across the season in 2016, shifting all Asian races together, and 3 Americas events taking place over a 30 day period. Whilst these changes will extend the time teams are on the road they will reduce requirements around shipping team materials across the globe.