Toto Wolff says he can understand the criticisms being made by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
When asked by the Tiroler Tageszeitung newspaper if he enjoyed Christmas, the Mercedes team boss smiled: “You mean the one on the 25th or the one on the 26th?”
It is an allusion to Ecclestone’s recently-reported remark that, if in a F1 meeting Wolff proposed to change the date of Christmas, many of his political allies would simply follow blindly.
“First of all, we are ‘Frenemies’ (friends and enemies),” Wolff said of the 85-year-old. “On the personal level, we are friends and in the summer we even holidayed together.
“On the other hand, as a promoter I naturally understand his concerns.”
Ecclestone’s concerns are about the F1 ‘show’, with Mercedes utterly dominating in the controversial new era of low-volume ‘hybrid’ engines.
Wolff said it is possible Mercedes will be pushed harder in 2016.
“In English there is this word ‘complacency’. But that’s not the case with us,” he told the Austrian newspaper.
And he said much of the complaining about Mercedes and the current situation in F1 is simply opportunistic.
“There are groups that take advantage of the situation to gain a supposed advantage,” said Wolff. “It’s not how I would do it, but I accept that there is such an approach.
“From Bernie’s perspective I understand it. He needs a first-class entertainment to sell, and that is why a ‘Mercedes era’ is not ideal,” he admitted.
Indeed, Ecclestone is warning that he will push through changes no matter what democratic processes are currently in place, and Wolff said it must be taken seriously.
“Anything that Bernie does must be taken seriously,” he insisted. “But a lot of the others in his slipstream I see as barking dogs that do not bite.
“At the same time we are trying to reach a compromise as we cannot act like a hardliner who only cares about himself. The platform must be attractive,” said Wolff.
He also said it is too simplistic to say F1 should follow the lead of MotoGP — a sport where the riders are still heroes and the racing is tough.
“You are comparing apples with pears,” said Wolff. “Formula one has a TV audience that is a multiple of MotoGP. Where MotoGP is good is the live event. The action is good, the riders are not remotely controlled and aerodynamics matters almost not at all.
“We can learn from that,” he admitted.
But Wolff said the F1 ‘show’ is good as well, while the ‘hybrid’ era is wrongly maligned.
“With the exception of the turbo era in the 80s, where in qualifying there was more than 1000hp in qualifying, we have the most powerful engines of the modern era.
“We are simply selling the product badly. The reason is that some of our competitors and also Bernie are maligning this technology, but the future is hybrid! We cannot ignore that.
“A hybrid engine is lighter, faster, more efficient and more powerful than a conventional naturally-aspirated engine. Clearly the technology must not take the upper hand over the drivers, but if we change a few details about the cars, in 2017 we will see the fastest cars there has ever been on this planet,” added Wolff.
Finally, Wolff spoke about the decision of his British wife Susie to give up her position as a Williams test driver, acknowledging that she will never get to race in F1.
“As a husband, I’m sorry that she did not get the chance, as I am convinced that she is good enough for a good mid-table team,” he said.
“And as part of the F1 world it would have been good for F1 to have a woman in the race, because even media that has nothing to do with motor sport would have been interested,” Wolff added.
“So it is a missed opportunity. But together as a family I don’t notice any difference now that she has made this decision. She is at peace with herself and I can tell you one thing: girls are much tougher than boys,” he smiled.
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