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INSIGHT: Seven Things You Didn't Know About Toto

Toto recently sat down with F1's 'Beyond the Grid' podcast and it proved to be an eye-opening listen...

1. He wasn't interested in racing until the age of 17...

Toto wasn't particularly interested in motor racing when he was growing up, but one experience changed that...

"I wasn't following any racing but just before I got my driving license, a friend of ours took my group of mates out for a weekend to Amsterdam," he said.

"Don't ask what we were doing there. But on the way back we stopped at the Nürburgring where a very dear friend of mine, Philipp Peter, was competing in the German Formula 3 Championship.

"He was a frontrunner and became an Audi works driver later on. From the moment I came into the paddock, looking around the cars, being on the grid, I caught the bug.

"It was the man able or not able to control this machine and it felt like modern gladiators. This is when I said to myself 'I want to become a racing driver'. I was 17 at the time."

2. His first racing car was also his road car...

After combining Christmas and Birthday presents in order to go to the Walter Lechner Racing School at the old A1 Ring, Toto decided to follow his dreams of being a racing driver.

But, racing in single seaters was expensive, so he opted for a slightly different route (and one with a roof).

"I couldn't afford single-seaters at the beginning, so I was doing something called the SEAT Ibiza Cup," he says. "I bought myself a SEAT Ibiza which also became my road car and this is how I grew into it.

"I worked for Walter Lechner as an instructor in Spielberg for a few years and became one of the frontrunners in the Austrian and German Formula Ford. I went to New Zealand... it started like a positive little racing career."

3. His racing career came to an end thanks to finance issues. And Nick Heidfeld...

While Toto has done some amateur racing more recently, his single-seater career came to an abrupt end because of one factor: money.

Well, that and experiencing the talents of some familiar names up close...

"I think I got myself to the point where I was able to fight for wins in Formula Ford, and back then the German Formula Ford Championship was like the current Formula 4 or Formula Renault Eurocup, it was quite a strong Championship," he said.

"But I ran out of money. A sponsor stopped financing after the Senna and Wendlinger incidents in 1994, and this is why I stopped all my racing activities.

"Also, because I saw some of the young guys coming up who clearly had more background and a lot of talent.

"Alex Wurz is somebody who I have mentioned in the past but also Nick Heidfeld. He had just started his racing when it was my last year in Formula Ford. You could immediately see these kids were different.

"They were just faster straight from the get-go, even in their rookie seasons. I remember Nick Heidfeld was running a Formula Ford 1600 in a field of 1800s.

"The best 1600 would qualify midfield at best and we had rain and a wet qualifying in Zolder and this tiny little boy, I don't know how old he was, put his 1600 in the second row. You could see there were some who were more special."

4. His mentor is a Mercedes legend...

After leaving motorsport and starting his own business, Toto eased himself back into racing as an amateur driver. He got involved in rallying and then turned to spotting and developing young drivers.

That opened up a completely new chapter in Toto's career and also introduced him to a remarkable mentor...

"I got to know the Mercedes Junior Programme and the managers of the Mercedes Junior Programme. We decided to join forces and co-invest with each other into these young drivers. After a year or two, one of those managers said to me 'you are an investor, have you ever thought about buying the Mercedes DTM team?'

"I was surprised that it was up for sale because I thought it was owned by Mercedes. But they said 'no it is not, it is owned by Mr Aufrecht, who is the founder of AMG. The A from AMG is Mr Aufrecht. It is a company with 150 employees, it is pretty solid, we are developing lots of race cars, not only DTM. Why don't you invest in the team?'

"I got to know Mr Aufrecht. That was really one of the greatest personalities I have ever met in my life. He became a mentor of mine and now a friend of mine. Maybe I can give a little bit back being the mentor now, so the roles have reversed.

"He's 79 today and he allowed me to co-invest in this fantastic company called HWA. I bought 49 per cent and we grew it, and grew it, and listed it on the stock exchange as this was part of my investment strategy."

5. He and Niki go way back...

After joining the Mercedes F1 team at the end of 2012, Toto joined forces with the legendary Niki Lauda.

They soon formed quite the double-act in the garage. But while this was Toto's first time working with Niki, they'd actually known each other for a while...

"When I came into Formula One I looked at it less from the fan side and more from the business side," Toto explains.

"Niki Lauda is the most iconic Austrian and the one of the greatest personalities in Formula One, so obviously he was a common name and we have a family relation. He is the cousin of my ex-wife, so I knew him for a long time - but we never got to work with each other.

"When Daimler decided they wanted to put us both together in this venture, it took a while until we actually synchronised. But, after that year, the relationship grew stronger and stronger.

"We are very complimentary in terms of strengths and weaknesses and now it has been the sixth year. We have not only travelled to most of the races together but we have become friends and are completely aligned in our objectives as to where we see the team should develop.

"Niki not being here is a little bit like having cut a leg off!"

6. Alain Prost gave him some top tips in 2014...

The intense rivalry of Lewis and Nico presented Toto with quite a challenge. But a chat with the legendary Alain Prost in 2014 proved to be incredibly useful in combatting inter-team rivalry.

"I had a discussion with Alain Prost back in 2014 which gave me a good learning," Toto said. "I asked him the question 'what went wrong between you and Senna?' that two great drivers had a sour relationship, breaking down and ending in a collision on track.

"He said the biggest problem for him was the in-transparency of the management. They never knew what the agenda of the senior management in McLaren was. You never knew whether you were in or out, the flavour of the month or not, whether there were politics against you or not.

"What I tried to implement very early in the team was the ultimate transparency. We'd talk about things. Sometimes it is the inconvenient truth, things you don't want to hear. And, over time and over the years, we got to know each other better and started to trust each other. The inconvenient truth is something that can be very helpful in order to achieve your objectives.

"You just put it all out and sometimes you agree. But, sometimes you walk off the table and you agree to disagree. They agree to disagree and then at least understand each other's standpoint. That is very important - and this is how we handled the situation with Nico and Lewis. It wasn't me alone but in the process, there were many others in the team that were really helpful and managed it in the same way I did."

7. His stand-out career moment came four years ago...

Toto isn't one for picking his proudest achievements so far. But one day does stand out among the rest - and that's the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix.

Alongside his Mercedes commitments, Toto was still a shareholder in Williams. Mercedes finished 1-2 at the Red Bull Ring, with Williams 3-4.

"It's the only trophy apart from the Constructors' Championship trophy that I actually have in my office," he said.

"It isn't the nicest trophy - but it is a trophy that has so much value for me personally. Spielberg is where it all started for me in the early 90s with the Walter Lechner Racing School. The endless laps I did there, walking and instructing other people, really not having an idea of where my life would lead me.

"I ended up in 2014 as being a shareholder of both teams because I didn't sell my shares back then and we finished in the first four positions. I remember I drove the car back to Vienna that Sunday evening, a trip which I did hundreds of times, and I realised that I was just involved in two teams that finished in the top four positions of a Formula One World Championship race. That was a moment that was really, really special for me."

Want more insights into the Boss? We found all of these gems in the latest 'Beyond the Grid' Formula One podcast - brought to you by our friends at Bose! Listen to the full podcast via Apple Podcasts , Spotify and YouTube .