Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has opened up on his mental struggles during 2020, revealing that he considered leaving Formula 1.
Having taken class victory in the 1994 24 hours of the Nurburgring, the Austrian began his F1 career in 2009 when he bought a share in Williams and joined the board of directors.
He was appointed executive director of the team three years later, before joining Mercedes in the same position one year after.
Team principal Ross Brawn departed at the end of 2013 and Wolff has been in the role ever since, overseeing seven Drivers’ Championships through Sir Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, as well as a record eight consecutive Constructors’ Championships.
The 50-year-old struck up a fantastic working and personal relationship with non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, who passed away in 2019.
Wolff said at the time that he missed being able to talk to his friend and three-time world champion Lauda, and the COVID-19 pandemic that suspended racing for four months that year will have given him a lot to think about.
It now emerges that one of those thoughts pertained to his future in the sport, and he was left questioning whether he wanted to continue as team principal after 2020.
“It was ten months that were very difficult for me – also mentally, I gave everything for almost eight years and felt burnt out to a certain extent,” he said in conversation with Frankfurter Allgemeine.
“In addition, my contract was due to expire and I could have sold my shares. All this led to an inner conflict: do I want to stay in Formula 1? Can I still make my contribution? Or can someone else do the job better?”
However, the considerations of his potential departure allowed him to re-discover his “place” within the team.
“I spent almost a year thinking about that, although ‘thinking about it’ is still a rather positive expression. It was a great deal of self-reflection, also because of the pressure I felt.
“In the end I chose Mercedes and Formula 1, I have found my place here.”
The Mercedes boss, who is also involved with the Mercedes EQ Formula E team, has previously admitted that he and Hamilton are “disillusioned” with F1 after the Briton’s controversial championship defeat to Max Verstappen last year.
While the seven-time world champion’s future is as yet unclear, the 50-year-old is set to continue next season.
Wolff will enter his 10th year in charge of Mercedes in 2022, and the team are to unveil their new challenger on 18 February before testing in Barcelona kicks off on 23 February.