Wolff and Verstappen: United in purist vision for F1

Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ team principal, finds common ground with F1 rival Max Verstappen regarding the sport’s increasing focus on entertainment aspects. Verstappen, the dominant force in F1 with Red Bull, has been openly critical of Formula 1’s shift toward more show-business elements, including sprint races and extravagant off-track events like those in Las Vegas.

Speaking to Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, Wolff shared his perspective, aligning with Verstappen’s stance. “The way I see it, Max is a purist and thinks about Formula 1 in much the same way as I do,” Wolff said. He expanded on this shared view, emphasizing the traditional race weekend format: “We think Friday and Saturday are about preparation and qualifying, and then on Sunday you have the main course, where you look forward to the start.”

Wolff, however, also recognizes the need for F1 to evolve under Liberty Media’s stewardship. “You have to be open to changes,” he remarked, acknowledging the balance between preserving traditions and adapting to attract new audiences. Wolff added, “We all love traditions, even Stefano Domenicali does. But we also need to reach new audiences and make the sport more modern for young people.”

Looking to Mercedes’ future, Wolff, who has recently extended his tenure with the team until at least 2026, is focused on navigating the team back to

the forefront of F1 competition. “We really have to climb Mount Everest,” Wolff expressed, acknowledging the strength of rivals like Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren. He also discussed the challenges and opportunities leading up to the significant car and engine changes planned for 2026.

Wolff emphasized the importance of balancing immediate and long-term goals: “Putting all of our energy on 2026 is dangerous, though,” he admitted, cautioning against focusing too narrowly on future regulations. Drawing on past examples, he noted that some teams have tried this approach only to fail in catching up.

However, Wolff is optimistic about taking on these challenges, saying, “You should always take on as many challenges as possible, because you learn from them. Red Bull is at the forefront in terms of package, including the driver, but it will be fun to try to beat them as early as 2024 or the season after that.”

Mercedes’ strategy includes welcoming back James Allison in a full technical director role, following Mike Elliot’s departure. Wolff had high praise for Allison: “James is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met,” he said. “It helped him to take a step back for a year, distance himself and return after Mike’s period. I couldn’t have hoped for anyone else to technically guide this team.”

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