IN WORDS: Fan Q&A with Toto Wolff – F1 2017 Mid-Season Review

IN WORDS: Fan Q&A with Toto Wolff – F1 2017 Mid-Season Review

Toto answers questions from the fans on the 2017 Formula One season so far and what's to come in the second half of the year...

Rosanna Tennant (Presenter): We're halfway through the season. How do you rate the team's performance so far?

Toto Wolff: Overall good. We had a bit of a bumpy start. Testing didn't go as expected and then the first couple of races were so-so. We didn't quite find the setup window that functioned the right way on the car. But slowly we got there. We had a terrible weekend in Monaco but it gave us good direction. Sometimes these bad moments help you in the long run and it did. Since then we've been doing okay.

RT (Presenter): It's so close in the Driver's Championship with just one point between Lewis and Sebastian and a bit of a bigger lead for the team over Ferrari in the Constructor's Championship. How important is it for the team mentally to go into the summer break leading both Championships?

TW: I don't think it is important. For me at least not, because we are just halfway through the season and it's not important whether you are half-time Champion or not. It's just important to add weekend to weekend and do a good job. Of course, we have a bit of a buffer in the Constructors' Championship - but equally, in the Drivers' Championship, we are one point behind. It makes no sense to look at the points at that stage. We can do that three or four races to the end and until then we just need to keep pushing.

Perry Brown (Facebook): How will you base the decision to shift design focus on developing the 2018 car? Presumably work is already well under way, but will more resource be put into the 2018 Mercedes should the Championship swing either towards or away from Vettel?

TW: That's a very good question, actually. In times where regulations are stable like from 2017 to 2018, you can delay the development of next year's car a little bit - but not a lot. What we do is every single week we evaluate where we are in the Championship and what kind of design direction we think next year's car is going to go. Of course, if you change the concept massively, that means next year's car is not an evolution of the current car but a completely new radical development. That is a question you need to answer yourself and if the answer is yes you need to start early. So, we are still on the way for 2017. We have obviously looked at 2018 but all is on plan.

Francesco Lorenzi (Facebook): After Nico Rosberg retired last year so much changed in the team's structure: Valtteri Bottas as a new driver, Paddy Lowe gone to Williams. How did the whole team react and still manage to remain so competitive?

TW: Change happens. It needs to happen. A racing team like Mercedes is not a static organisation. You cannot just freeze it and say "Everybody in the same position, we are successful and we don't want anybody to change their job". It doesn't work, because there is very good young talent coming up that obviously want to progress in their career. You have new challenges, new regulations, the odd inefficiency you need to tackle. It is a constant process. Darwin said the species that is most adaptive is going to survive. The team is a species that is changing all the time.

James Miragliotta (Twitter): What driver or team has surprised you the most so far this season?

TW: Many teams have surprised me. I was very surprised by Ferrari being that strong and all credit to them. They did a really good job over the winter. I was surprised that the chassis on Red Bull's side was not where everybody expected it to be. I'm happy to see Force India performing as well as they are. It's a pleasure to watch these two guys in the cars fight it out. The occasional highlight from Haas is also nice to see.

RT (Presenter): How would you be managing the Force India boys?

TW: I know Esteban, of course. Vijay (Mallya) knows his way around Formula One, Otmar (Szafnauer) the same and Bob (Fernley). I don't need to give them any tips. It's just important to contain the situation. There is obviously a rivalry cooking. It's very much about Esteban showing that he is capable of matching Checo and Checo will not leave it easy...

Dominika (Twitter): "Would you consider taking Robert Kubica to your team if you had a free place?

TW: I know Robert very well. I have known him since 2002, since Formula Renault. We speak Polish. I actually had a funny moment with him. I was doing the Mille Miglia with Aldo a few weeks ago. We were stopping in a village just before the Italian mountains and there were a lot of people asking for selfies. One guy was saying "Please, a selfie!" I looked up and it was Robert! I asked "What are you doing here?" and then we disappeared into a coffee shop. I was so happy to see him because he is fit and in good spirits, which is nice. I think he found his way around coping with the hand that is not functioning so well. As much as I hear the tests are running very well. I would really enjoy seeing him back in Formula One. He deserves that. He is one of the talents that wasn't able to show what he could can do. He had that one win, he was just coming up and then he had this freak accident in a rally.

Raphael (YouTube): With Ferrari's tyre failures in Silverstone and the team's increasing pace in the last races, do you think Mercedes is on the way to another Constructor's title?

TW: We had some really good weekends most recently but Budapest is going to be a completely new circuit layout - slow speed, very hot - so we need to see how we do there. As much as I said before I am not looking at the points, I would just like to see another track layout and how we cope with the car. One weekend after the other...

Frederick Padula (YouTube): How do you compare Rosberg to Bottas?

TW: Very different personalities. I enjoyed working with Nico. He is a challenging personality who has made his way all the way to the top. Sometimes you say it was easier for him but, actually, I think it was very difficult for him because if you are the son of a World Champion you need to find the energy and the motivation within yourself and I don't think that is very easy. But he achieved his lifelong dream and then he decided to call it a day - which somehow is inspirational because we are all in that hamster wheel and he is one that actually decided to jump out of it. Valtteri is very different. He is just interested in the racing. He has a stable family life, a wonderful wife and needs his surrounding people - he has Antti, his coach that looks after him. He has no politics, no war outside of the track.

RT (Presenter): Have you been surprised by how quickly he's fitted in?

TW: I'm not surprised because I've known him for a long time and I knew that his dream was to be in a car that is competitive and that lets him win races. When the deal was done I think this was just what he wanted. He got his head down, keeps on working flat out with the engineers at the factory and he is doing a very good job.

Paz Rappi (YouTube): What is your opinion on Halo?

TW: I think that probably the FIA had no choice but to introduce the Halo. It is the mandate of the FIA to increase safety and they have looked at various systems. None of them really worked and the Halo was the one that was just about right. I don't like the look of it - the aesthetics - but the decision was made and now we have to just make the best out of it.

'No.1' (YouTube): Will you ask Valtteri to hold back to help Lewis win the Championship even if he is in contention himself?

TW: The answer is no. If both of them are in contention for the World Championship we will not interfere. That is very clear. There could be a situation that if you come to the end of the Championship and mathematically one could still win if he were to win all races and neither Sebastian nor Lewis would score any points, then obviously that doesn't count. But until then, and while both of them can win the Championship I'd like to see them racing. I think we owe it to them.

RT (Presenter): Which race are you most looking forward to in the second half of the season?

TW: I like Budapest a lot because of the city. It's buzzing. Somehow there is no race that I really dislike. Each of the circuits has its characteristics and I enjoy travelling so I'm looking forward to each of them.

RT (Presenter): Next year there will be an extra couple of races on the calendar next year. Are you excited to see Germany back on the calendar and France as well?

TW: I think it's good that we are going back to Germany. It's our home race and lots of our staff are there and our fans. Coming back to France is good as well. Paul Ricard is a great circuit. So far, I think the calendar is good. The calendar is challenging - but everything we do is a challenge.

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