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Mercedes

Why Wolff’s extension puts Mercedes on the recovery path it needs

Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff recently penned a new multi-year contract to remain with the team until at least the end of 2026, a move that installs much-needed stability.

Hamilton Wolff
Analysis
To news overview © Mercedes

There was little surprise in the news that Toto Wolff has extended his contract at Mercedes, given the fact that the Austrian holds a 33 per cent share in the team.

Wolff has committed the next three years of his professional career to lead the Brackley-based squad as it aims to lift itself back to title-contending form following a disappointing duo of seasons.

Prior to Red Bull’s runaway form since 2022, Mercedes was the benchmark as it set several records during its seven-year stretch of double championship success.

Overseeing the dominant period was Wolff, who established himself as one of the sport’s greatest-ever Team Principals while Mercedes climbed higher and higher in F1’s record books.

Key departures

It’s difficult to argue that a change in leadership is needed given Mercedes’ strength was clear - in often devastating measures - during the opening years of the turbo-hybrid era.

Although it hasn't been a consistent race-winner, Mercedes has not drifted as far from its old form as it may seem - its performance setback, added to Red Bull's leap forward, has augmented the severity of its downfall.

In the technical set-up at Mercedes, things have not been so stable. In 2018, it suffered a blow with the departure of Aldo Costa, one of F1’s most successful designers who played a major role in the construction of Mercedes’ most dominant cars.

Andy Cowell, who led Mercedes’ Power Unit operations, was a monumental figure for the Silver Arrows departed in 2020 while it has also recently lost Mike Elliot and James Vowles, with the latter moving to Williams in a team boss role.

Part of the set-up however, is James Allison, who returned to the position of Technical Director last year in a job swap with Elliot (prior to his eventual exit) amid Mercedes’ dip in form. Allison was central to Mercedes’ success from 2018 to 2021 and Wolff sees the former Ferrari engineer as a key figure in the team’s recovery.

“He is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met,” Wolff told Gazzetta dello sport. “I helped him with a year out of the ring, to get some distance and then return after Mike left. I wouldn't have hoped for anyone better than him to manage the technical department.”

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Needed stability

Wolff’s contract extension was announced several months after Lewis Hamilton and George Russell extended their deals until the end of 2025.

There were numerous rumours regarding Hamilton’s future beyond last year’s campaign amid Mercedes’ slump. The seven-time World Champion’s win drought currently stands at 45 races and questions were asked about his desire to continue with a team that wasn’t winning.

Hamilton continually squashed the suggestions and officially put the matter to bed when he penned an extension, alongside Russell who originally joined the team in 2022.

The trio of signatures marks an important moment for Mercedes who has its cornerstone pieces tied up, clearly undeterred by the challenge they are facing to return to the front of the field.

Wolff and Hamilton in particular share a strong bond, formed over several years of unprecedented success that saw Hamilton end up as F1's most successful driver.

Their loyalty and faith in the Mercedes camp will no doubt prove to be a boost for the factory and trackside workers, who are no doubt disappointed with how the last two years have unfolded.

There is no lack of faith in Mercedes, both internally and externally, and nor should there be - not long ago it was not only the team to beat, but the team to aspire to be.

It is not clear how long a recovery will take, but the right pieces are in place to make such an ambition happen.

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