Toto Wolff reckons engine freeze for F1 2022 seems impossible now with the opposition from Ferrari and Renault as he looks ahead to a different future for himself.
Ever since their engine supplier of two years, Honda, announced a departure from F1, Red Bull Racing have been pushing for an engine development freeze beginning in 2022. Such a freeze would afford them the time to take over the Japanese manufacturer’s engine program and remain competitive, if they are to continue their pursuit of this option.
However, rival engine makers have taken issue with this proposal. The underperforming Ferrari outfit – who will indubitably need multiple seasons of development to get back on track – were the first to reject the idea, with Renault recently following suit.
Their reasoning is less empirically discernible, but nonetheless the French outfit staunchly oppose the thought of a freeze. “If you had asked me six months ago, we would have pushed hard for an even lower cap budget, to try to contain the costs of the chassis, but also to reduce those related to the engine by accepting a freeze,” team boss Cyril Abiteboul said to media including F1 Website, Motorsport Network, Racefans.net, BBC and more.
“But Red Bull Racing and Honda were against it and we accepted it. So we continued on a different path. Since then, we have been very busy working on the 2022 engine platform and, if you ask me today what I think about freezing the engines, my position is clearly different from the one I had six months ago. I am against freezing the engines. We have no intention to stop what could be a very important platform for us. We do not accept it.”
Despite their clear lead in the engine department, Mercedes share apprehension about a potential freeze, though their team principal Toto Wolff was quick to point out that their view on the matter is moot given the opinions of their adversaries. “Teams [are] not agreeing,” said the Austrian. “Two of the PU manufacturers aren’t agreeing means [a freeze] can’t be implemented.
“They have their reasons and I guess we are also apprehensive about the situation with Honda and Red Bull. Renault and Ferrari have been very direct about their positions so I don’t see that happening,” summed up Wolff. Mercedes may be interested in a freeze so as to essentially secure their command over the engine, especially as the head of their department – Andy Cowell – has left the team.
Regardless, more changes seem to be afoot at the German team, with Wolff contemplating a departure, and investigating possible successors as F1 becomes increasingly demanding. The Austrian conceded that he is considering a change of role. “The truth is that it’s taking a toll on all of us and I’ve always been of the opinion that you should never go from very good to good, because then somebody else should take the baton and run,” said Wolff.
“I still feel that I can make a contribution, I actually enjoy the race weekends a lot. And I’ve come to enjoy them more since lockdown. I just need to think how I would like to structure the team going forward. We had a great handover of responsibilities, whilst keeping the know how and the senior leadership in the company, but also not creating a bottleneck for the young talent to come up,” he added on the matter of a successor.
“This is something which I find very interesting, and looking forward into the next few years, it would very much make me proud to see a team principal coming up, taking over from me and doing a better job than I could have done at that time. This is a really interesting project for me. I don’t feel that I will let the team down. I’m a shareholder and I will stay with the team, that is what we have agreed with Daimler, but maybe then in another function. Whether it is CEO, or chairman, we haven’t figured out yet.
“Daimler has very much given me the choice. But, before me transitioning into a new role, I need to make sure that somebody else is doing the 23 races and I can enjoy myself in front of a Zoom screen,” Wolff summed up. He was hesitant to provide a time frame for when he could step out of his role, the 48-year-old saying that he has to weigh his options further, while adding that he has yet to find a replacement for himself – something that could be a roadblock.
“I’ve spent quite some time thinking about it, and also involving the leadership within MGP, and we haven’t identified the structure for the future,” added Wolff. “So, I can’t tell you whether it is a year, two or three. The main thing is not me, you know, having had the toll of the racing, because I enjoy the competition. And as long as I enjoy the competition, I think I can contribute to the team success. But, whilst enjoying myself, I also need to make sure that there is a transition sometimes in the future, and I don’t know when that is because I haven’t identified the right person yet,” he concluded.
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