Pictured: HRSP Ignition Co-Founder Nick Butcher at Mercedes-Benz World
Building a Leadership Culture to Win – Mercedes AMG F1, Toto Wolff.
Part 1: Background
In 2010, Mercedes-Benz made its return to Formula One as a Constructor for the first time since 1955 taking over the Brawn GP team. The German car manufacturer had been back in the sport involved as a engine provider, first with Sauber in 1993 and then as a 40% shareholder of McLaren from 1995. The partnership with McLaren had seen some success with 3 Drivers Championships with Mika Hakkinen in 1998 and 1999 and Lewis Hamilton in 2008 and 1 Constructors Championship in 1998.
Brawn GP, with Mercedes power, had just come off the back of a wonder season winning both the Drivers and Constructors Championships in 2009. This was made all the more special by the fact that 12 months earlier the team, then owned by Honda, had faced closure with the Japanese Manufacturer pulling out of the sport with immediate effect, only to be saved by a management buyout from the teams Directors Ross Brawn and Nick Fry. The 2009 season hadn’t been all plain sailing though as a tight budget further to Honda leaving, had meant many redundancies at the team and not much in season development with the team relying very much on its early season advantage via a clever double diffuser design to win the championship. Development of the 2010 car which Mercedes would inherit was also very far behind other teams.
With Ross Brawn staying on as team principal, the 2010 – 2012 seasons saw limited success. Even with the return to the sport of 7-time World Champion Michael Schumacher and promising young talent Nico Rosberg, they only won one race, the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix, which was the overall highlight.
The start of the 2013 season saw some changes with Williams F1 shareholder Toto Wolff and 3 time World Champion Niki Lauda coming on-board to support Ross Brawn on the management side and on the drivers side coming in for the re-retiring Michael Schumacher was McLaren driver and 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton.
Toto Wolff had come on-board after being approached by the Mercedes team during the 2012 season to do an external review of what areas the team needed to work on in order to start winning again. Further to this, they offered him the job of being one of the people to turn it around and a 30% share of the team.
Part of Mercedes plan was to take full advantage of the new engine regulations that were coming in for the 2014 season.
However, the new management team of Brawn, Wolff and Lauda wasn’t harmonious with Ross Brawn leaving part way through the 2013 season, leaving Wolff and Lauda to run the F1 team.
From 2014 (further to the new engine regulations that Mercedes predicted would make all the difference!) the team has dominated winning all 5 Drivers and 5 Constructors Championships and around 75% of the races.
They also look set to win both Championships in 2019 which would extend their run beyond what Ferrari achieved between 2000-2004.
So how have they achieved this without getting complacent?
To answer this, we are going to look at the Leadership of Toto Wolff and how he and his management team have created a winning culture.
All photos have been taken by the HR Strategy Pro Ignition team on their travels, please do not use without permission.