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Toto Wolff

The successful 'secret' Red Bull life of Toto Wolff

We know Toto Wolff as a Mercedes man at heart. He and his team are Red Bull's great rival, but did you know that at one point he himself was part of the Red Bull family? Something, by the way, he is still only somewhat proud of.

Wolff Red Bull BMW
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You can't deny Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has a lack of passion. He shows it every time as Mercedes team boss, but certainly also in the past as a driver, with Wolff an established racer in his own right.

He participated in rallies, a great passion, but he also stood his ground on the asphalt racetrack. He once broke the lap record on the famous Nordschleife, but in an attempt to go faster again afterwards he crashed heavily, with the impact leaving him with nerve damage meaning he couldn't smell or taste for months.

That was in a Porsche, but years before that he was active in the FIA GT championship. There he drove very creditably with Porsches, Ferraris and BMWs, among others. In 2006, he won the very first edition of the 24 Hours of Dubai in, yes.... Red Bull colours!

In Red Bull blue, he caused a stir on more than one occasion and particularly excelled in tricky conditions. At the soaking wet 1000 miles of Interlagos in 2004 he was the team's fastest man, even though well-known GT pedellar Karl Wendlinger was on the team.

When Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz passed away last year, Wolff looked back on his time as a "Red Bull driver.

"I was proud to wear those colours as a GT driver," he reflected.

"To be a Red Bull driver was very prestigious and I was very proud to wear those team colours," the Austrian spoke with a big smile.

			© xpb.cc
	© xpb.cc

Red Bull and Toto Wolff

Not only on, but also off the track, Wolff had a connection with Red Bull. "As an Austrian, you know the history of Red Bull pretty well," he continues.

"When Dietrich started selling Red Bull, some clubs just rejected him: 'What is an energy drink?' they wondered.

"Then it was mixed with vodka and suddenly it was a hit. It was like a drug and it was secretly sold 'under the table.'

"In Munich, it did end up being sold in the good clubs and Vodka-Red Bull was like taking drugs. That created such a myth around Red Bull and so it created a market that didn't exist yet."

Wolff, also a successful businessman himself, watched Mateschitz walk his own path and not let himself be known. "

From then on, the brand became stronger and stronger. I also remember well that he never wanted to offer his product cheaper. He didn't budge. If the supermarkets excluded him, he would say: 'Fine, go ahead,' and eventually they would quickly knock back on his door."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Mateschitz larger than life

His love of sports became evident over the years. In Formula 1, Mateschitz was an influential man, owning two teams and launching the careers of World Champions Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, with eight drivers in 2023 having come through the Red Bull junior programme.

It's not just in motorsport however, with Red Bull also present in other sports like football, ice hockey and air sports.

"Dietrich was just larger than life. Also what he stood for, for soccer, ice hockey, Leipzig, the racing program," says Wolff.

"Unbelievable. He probably contributed more to Formula 1 than any individual. He was an impressive man. Sometimes we could discuss serious matters for hours, but then we would end up talking about our families. I enjoyed that.

"His greatest achievement is the Red Bull brand.

"I remember him telling me once that he was only too happy to take on a sports project that was making a loss if only he could get pleasure out of it.

"There are not many entrepreneurs who say things like that out of love for the sport."

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