JANUARY 17, 2024

Wolff sides with Verstappen over F1 show

Toto Wolff says he agrees with Formula 1 rival Max Verstappen that the sport is pushing the limits in terms of the sport's 'show' factors.

Start, Abu Dhabi GP 2023
© Red Bull

Verstappen, who is dominating the sport with Red Bull, has voiced his opposition to show-business elements like sprint races and Las Vegas-style off-track events.

The way I see it, Max is a purist and thinks about Formula 1 in much the same way as I do, Wolff, who heads and co-owns key Red Bull rival Mercedes, told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

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.

However, Wolff says he is also realistic about the things F1 commercial rights holder Liberty Media has been doing to ramp up the sport's 'show' appeal.

You have to be open to changes, Wolff said.

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.

Much more important to Wolff, who has signed on to remain Mercedes' team principal at least until 2026, is that the Brackley based team returns to the very front in F1.

We really have to climb Mount Everest, said the Austrian, "because Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren are very strong. And 2026 is already around the corner.

The most encouraging part is being part of that transition and using that to try and win again, Wolff added, referring to the sweeping car and engine changes looming for 2026.

Putting all of our energy on 2026 is dangerous, though, he admits. "In the past some teams have done this to catch up and failed.

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, said Wolff.

Mercedes' ace card, he added, is the full return of James Allison to the technical director role - having let Mike Elliot go last year.

James is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, Wolff 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.