Williams Grand Prix confirmed this morning that Toto Wolff, who owns a 16.3 percent shareholding in the team, will be leaving with immediate effect to take up a new role with Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix. Wolff will take over the role vacated by the departure of Norbert Haug, coordinating all of Mercedes-Benz motorsport activities.
Although Wolff will be relinquishing his seat on the Company’s Board of Directors, he will retain his shareholding (for now).
Team Principal and majority shareholder Sir Frank Williams will continue to oversee the running of Williams Grand Prix with Wolff’s responsibilities being shared between members of the Board’s Executive Committee.
Speaking about Wolff’s departure Sir Frank Williams said; ‘’I would like to thank Toto for his hard work, dedication and commitment to the team during his time as a Director of the Company. He was a key support to me as Executive Director last season, deputising at a number of races when I was unable to attend. However, positions such as the one offered to him by Mercedes do not come around often. Toto has a long history with them and I certainly was not going to stand in the way of him accepting this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Toto will retain his shareholding in Williams and will always have a place at Grove but make no mistake; we will fight him hard on the racetrack!
I am sure he will be a strong asset for Mercedes and on behalf of the whole team I would like to wish him the best of luck in his new role. I’m lucky to have a very professional group of people around me and the Company’s Executive Committee will continue the work they have been doing to ensure a successful future for the business.”
“As an entrepreneur, investor and motorsport manager, Toto Wolff has proven that this sport runs in his blood; at the same time, he is also well aware of the economic necessities of the business,” said Dieter Zetsche, head of Mercedes-Benz.
“With Toto Wolff, we have gained for our Formula 1 team not only an experienced motorsport specialist, but also a longstanding enthusiast of the Mercedes-Benz brand. Together with him and Niki Lauda, we will further develop our motorsport activities and guide our Silver Arrows into the next era.”
As part of the deal, Wolff will receive a minority stake in Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Limited, together with Niki Lauda who took on the role of Non-Executive Chairman late last year. Wolff joins Lauda and Ross Brawn in comprising the management team of Mercedes-Benz F1.
“Mercedes is one of the most important participants in motorsport worldwide,” said Wolff.
“I am not only a big fan, but also a longstanding friend and enthusiast of the brand. I am looking forward to the challenge and, along with preparing for a successful racing season, also want to focus on the targeted promotion of new talent. I am leaving Williams on good terms and I will miss the team and friends I have made there. I’d also like to wish Frank and the whole of Williams the best of luck for the future.”
Toto Wolff started his motorsport career in Formula Sport in 1992. Since 1998, Wolff has founded several venture capital companies and his current investments include an interest in HWA AG, the partner of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport in DTM racing. In November 2009, he acquired a stake in Williams Grand Prix Holdings and joined its board of directors, becoming a member of its team management in July 2012. Wolff will resign from his role at Williams when he joins Mercedes-Benz, but will remain a Williams shareholder.
Wolff is a well-respected racing driver, having won his category in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring in 1994. He has won races in the FIA GT/GT1 series, racing together with team mate Karl Wendlinger and served as an Instructor at the Walter Lechner Racing School. In 2009 he lapped the Nürburgring Nordschleife in a record time of 7:03,28 in a Porsche 997 RSR, before crashing spectacularly when his rear tyre exploded.
Lewis Hamilton, who signed for Mercedes-Benz last year, made his first appearance as a works Silver Arrow driver at the weekend. We’ll publish a video later today of his visit to the Mercedes-AMG factory.
Toto Wolff’s wife, Susie, who is an old friend of Lewis, confirmed this afternoon that she would be staying with Williams F1 as their test and reserve driver for 2013.
She posted on Twitter “Just to clarify, I am a proud member of the Williams F1 Team & there was never any question of me leaving.”. “(I am) Very happy for my husband, we will be fighting him hard on track!”