Thursday, November 4th, 2021
“Chatter!”, “Mouth shut!”
Formula 1 bosses put on a lot of theater
Toto Wolff and Christian Horner are powerful men in the Formula 1 circus. Your two top drivers fight hard on the track, often spectacularly, for the world championship title. Off the track, however, the bosses also put on a damn good show. It’s almost a bit like it used to be.
Toto Wolff and Christian Horner have long been the main actors in the Formula 1 show. Their pilots Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen provide Hollywood entertainment on the asphalt in the World Cup duel. But beyond the curbs, the two team bosses also make headlines themselves. The Formula 1 entertainment engine runs at full speed, after all, the inner workings are illuminated by the streaming service Netflix with its own documentary series.
“People have a microphone in front of them or a camera pointed at themselves and are starting to act like little actors, like in Hollywood,” Wolff told the Daily Mail in an interview before the Mexican Grand Prix this weekend. “That’s good for sports and good for Netflix because they want to portray the people, not just the stopwatch.”
Every show, every soap, is only as good as its performers. One, Wolff, is the team boss of the industry leader Mercedes, boss of the World Championship runner-up Hamilton, decorated with seven constructor and driver titles in succession. No other team boss in the history of the motorsport premier class can boast such a series. The other, Horner, is team boss of challenger Red Bull, boss of world championship leader Verstappen, in the era with Sebastian Vettel from 2010 to 2013 decorated with four constructor and driver titles in succession.
As successful as Wolff and Horner are, they are so closely connected in their resentments. “I think we respect each other, but I also think we work in very different ways,” said Horner, who with Verstappen wants to finally break the permanent dominance of the Silver Arrows this season. “I really want to be at the forefront. I sit at the pit wall with the strategists and the engineers, Toto sits in the garage next to the press man. There are different functions, different roles, different points of view.”
Ecclestone created “Racing and Soap Opera”
Horner introduced his statements elegantly, only to then taunt. What the husband of the former Spice Girls Geri Halliwell actually wanted to say: I focus on cars and tactics, the other on PR and image. “I have the feeling that he’s one of the protagonists in a pantomime, part of the Formula 1 line-up,” said Wolff, “for me as a partner, as a team owner, it’s great that he writes these kinds of stories.”
There had already been a real crash this season between the Briton Horner and the Austrian Wolff. In the design controversy over the legality of wings, Horner, who is still assisted by Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko in matters of dispute, had ruled his rivals in Baku at the beginning of June to “keep your mouth shut”. Wolff, who is missing long-time team supervisory board member Niki Lauda, who died in 2019, at his side, etched: “Christian is quite a talker who likes to be in front of the camera.”
Wolff said later that he shouldn’t have gone into it at all. “He was rude and I reacted to it, but in the end I don’t care and I don’t pay attention to it,” said the Mercedes team boss. Wolff thinks that Formula 1 is once again similar to the times of long-time chief marketer Bernie Ecclestone. “In many ways we are going back to our roots, because what Bernie Ecclestone created back then was racing and soap opera. And when there wasn’t enough racing, he did soap opera,” noted Wolff.
All the taunts, all the turmoil – just as drivers try to throw themselves off balance and tempt them to make mistakes, so do the management staff of the racing teams. Especially when it comes to the World Cup. “It is the first time that Mercedes and Toto are in a situation in which they are really challenged,” Horner recently told Channel 4 of the expected title fight until the season finale. “We love competition, and the more excited Toto gets, the more fun it is.”