World champion shakedown: Toto Wolff

Mercedes dominated 2017 and is tipped to do so again this season with its powerful triumvirate of driver, team boss and technical director. We caught up with each of them in turn

Toto Wolff 2018 Japanese Grand Prix

Mercedes AMG F1’s team principal

How do you expect the Hamilton/Bottas partnership to evolve? “You never think a relationship between team-mates will always be harmonious, but in year one there was definitely something of a honeymoon period – and it helped that there was lots of respect between them. There was no previous baggage, either, unlike Lewis and Nico. I’m not expecting it always to be easy, because that simply isn’t part of any racing driver’s DNA, but it was in 2017.”

How do you retain competitive motivation after four straight world titles? “I think you remain energised so long as you are passionate about what you do. This is a fundamental, essential mindset. If one day I were to lose my passion for F1, or developing the team, then perhaps I’d question whether I was in the right position. But I really enjoy being part of the team, the changing environment, the fluctuating regulations, new competitors coming in, upping your game… Every year is different. You can reset your objectives and enter every season with the right motivation.”

And what are this year’s objectives? “We want to maintain the momentum we built in 2017. We want to stabilise the things that functioned well last year, then work on any weak areas in the car and the organisation to make them better. F1 is so competitive that you cannot take it for granted that you’ll always be fighting for championships.”

If you had to write a school report after Liberty’s first season, what would it say? Shows great promise? Must try harder..? “Ask me in 12 months! I’d like to give them more time. They’ve stepped into the big boots of an iconic, old-fashioned entrepreneur and I wouldn’t want to judge them just yet.”

How do you assess Lewis Hamilton’s status in the pantheon of Formula 1? “The statistics show that he’s among the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all time – that’s a fact. In terms of records he has beaten some and might yet beat others, but it’s best to recognise the greats once they’ve called it a day, that’s the moment to sum it all up. He’s already part of a group of the very best F1 drivers, but he can achieve even more.”

Do you worry at all about the future? F1 increased its digital activities last year, which wasn’t difficult… “They were previously zero!”

…but TV viewing figures continue to drop in some traditional heartlands. “I think there are worrying signs for every sport because of the changing media landscape. Traditional TV is losing importance – people use multiple screens, watching on-demand – and it’s a challenge that has to be tackled in the right way. That is the biggest factor. It’s a fair enough strategy to move TV behind a paywall to generate revenue, but then you have to be able to cope with a shrinking audiences.”

Who do you regard as the most likely opposition this year? “If you are realistic it will be the usual suspects, Ferrari and Red Bull, but there is a fine line between realism and arrogance – and it would be arrogant to write off all the others. Renault, McLaren, Williams and Force India are candidates to surprise at times. My mindset at the start of the campaign is to take everybody seriously.”