Who is Toto Wolff?
Toto Wolff is an Austrian investor and former racing driver. He is best known as the CEO and Team Principal of ‘Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team.’ Wolff started his racing career by competing in the Austrian and German ‘Formula Ford’ championships. Subsequently, he shifted his focus towards business, and founded his first investment company, ‘Marchfifteen,’ in 1998. Over the years, Wolff has found a way to merge business with his passion - auto racing. In 2009, he became a shareholder of the ‘Williams Formula One Team.’ Thereafter, he became the executive director of ‘Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team’ and acquired a 30 percent stake. Toto Wolff is credited for Lewis Hamilton’s success with ‘Mercedes,’ as he has been working closely with the world-renowned ‘F1’ driver since 2013.
Childhood & Early Life
Toto was born Torger Christian Wolff on January 12, 1972, in Vienna, Austria. He is of mixed ethnicity, as his mother, who worked as an anesthetist, is Polish, while his father was of Austrian Romanian origin. When he was eight years old, his father was diagnosed with brain cancer, which eventually led to his death during Wolff’s adolescence.
He went to ‘Lycée Français de Vienne,’ a prestigious French school in Vienna. At the age of 17, he was invited to watch his friend compete at Germany’s Nürburgring circuit which sparked an interest in auto racing. He subsequently attended a racing school and persuaded his mother to pay for his lessons.
Determined to become a racer, he sold his car and bought a ‘Seat Ibiza’ to compete in the ‘Seat Ibiza Cup.’ He went on to compete in the Austrian and German ‘Formula Ford’ championships where he started earning money for his exceptional racing skills. However, his racing career took a back seat in 1994 when his sponsors backed out.
A setback to his racing career forced Wolff to shift his focus toward business. He started attending ‘Vienna University of Economics,’ but dropped out to work as an intern at an investment bank. Thereafter, he became part of the sales management team of a steel company named ‘Koloman Handler.’ After working for the steel company for a couple of years, Wolff decided to set up a business of his own.
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In 1998, he founded his first investment firm, ‘Marchfifteen,’ along with fellow Austrian Rene Berger. Over the next few years, the firm grew to have offices in Berlin, Zürich, Vienna, Tel Aviv, and Warsaw. The company struck a series of high-profile deals, including an investment in a popular content delivery software provider which was co-financed by ‘T-Mobile.’
Wolff started racing in 2001, and won three six-hour races in Austria, Italy, and Czech Republic. In 2002, he finished sixth in the ‘FIA GT Championship.’ In 2004, he won a race at the ‘Italian GT Championship’ by teaming up with Lorenzo Case. In 2006, he participated in the ‘Austrian Rally Championship’ where he was the runner up.
Meanwhile, he founded his second investment firm, ‘Marchsixteen,’ in 2004 and started investing in Austrian public companies. In 2006, ‘Marchsixteen’ bought 49 percent of German motor racing company ‘HWA Team’ which produces ‘Formula 3’ engines. Wolff became HWA’s director, and listed it on the Frankfurt stock exchange in 2007.
In 2009, Wolff met an accident while racing at the Nürburgring circuit which brought an end to his racing career. In the same year, his long-standing dream of investing in a ‘Formula One’ team came true when he bought 16 percent stake in ‘Williams Formula One Team.’ He joined the board of directors of the racing team and became its executive director in 2012.
In 2013, he left ‘Williams F1’ to join ‘Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team’ as its executive director. He went on to acquire a 30 percent stake in ‘Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd’ and took over the motorsport activities of ‘Mercedes-Benz.’ By mid-2016, he had sold his ‘Williams F1’ shares to focus solely on the ‘F1’ team of ‘Mercedes-Benz.’
Association with Mercedes
Since his association with ‘Mercedes-Benz,’ Wolff has taken the company’s ‘Formula One’ team to greater heights. Starting from 2014, ‘Mercedes’ won 74 out of 100 races in five seasons. With 84 out of 100 pole positions, 147 out of 200 possible podium finishes, and 51 front-row lockouts, the team has thrived under Wolff’s leadership. Also, ‘Mercedes’ has maintained an impressive win percentage (65%) since Wolff’s association with the team.
Wolff came up with a ‘no-blame culture’ within the team. Whenever the team fails to achieve the desired result, no one is allowed to blame an individual. Instead, the problem that causes the failure is blamed and measures are taken to avoid it in the future. The methodology has also allowed the team to identify future leaders, apart from contributing towards the team’s success.
Over the years, Wolff has maintained a healthy relationship with the team’s most successful racer, Lewis Hamilton. Being the boss of the racing team, Wolff allows Hamilton to spend time away from the ‘F1’ environment which helps the racer to deliver optimum performances during races. In many of his interviews, Wolff has said that trust has played a key role in his successful partnership with Lewis Hamilton.
In 2018, ‘Mercedes’ equaled Ferrari’s all-time record by winning its fifth successive double world championship. ‘Mercedes’ went on to win ‘F1,’ ‘F2,’ ‘F3,’ and ‘F1 eSports’ titles making 2018 the most successful year in the history of its motorsport racing. ‘Mercedes-Benz’ also won several championships in customer racing.
Wolff’s contribution towards the team’s success was recognized at the 2018 ‘Autosport Awards’ where he was honored with a ‘John Bolster Award’ by the ‘FIA’ President Jean Todt. At the 2018 ‘FIA Prize Giving Gala’ in Russia, Wolff received the ‘President's Award’ along with non-executive Chairman Niki Lauda.
Family & Personal Life
Wolff is married to a former racing driver named Susie. He met Susie Stoddart when he was the director of ‘HWA.’ Susie at the time was racing for ‘Mercedes’ at the ‘German Touring Car’ series (DTM). Wolff and Susie tied the knot on October 15, 2011. They were blessed with a son named Jack Wolff on April 10, 2017. Wolff has two children from his previous marriage.
Toto Wolff helps many young racers to establish a career in auto racing. He serves as the vice chairman of ‘Mary Bendet Foundation.’ The organization aims at providing a better life for underprivileged children. It supports talented kids by sponsoring scholarships and strives towards improving conditions of playgrounds, dormitories, and day-care centers. It also opens centers that help handicapped children.