Otmar Szafnauer does not expect Toto Wolff’s investment in Aston Martin to lead to a stake in its works Formula 1 team when Racing Point is rebranded next year.
Mercedes F1 team principal Wolff has become an Aston Martin Lagonda investor, acquiring a small stake in the company after his friend and Racing Point F1 team co-owner Lawrence Stroll became executive chairman.
Wolff’s investment triggered speculation over his Mercedes future, given his current contract expires this year and Stroll’s Aston deal includes Racing Point become the British manufacturer’s works F1 team.
But it was described as simply a personal endeavour and he is expected to remain with the world champion team, a view shared by Racing Point team boss and CEO Szafnauer.
Asked if Wolff would be an asset to Racing Point/Aston in F1 in an interview with Sky Sports, Szafnauer said “yeah, absolutely”, because “he’s done an amazing job” as the figurehead of Mercedes since 2013.
“But I can’t see him having a stake in our team, for example,” Szafnauer added.
“The road car company, having shares in that, is completely different than having shares in a loss making Formula 1 team.”
Wolff has kept a low profile since the Australian Grand Prix but in an interview with Austrian newspaper Osterrich’s website he said that low stocks and the new DBX appealed to him.
He also deliberately used a favoured expression of former Mercedes colleague, the late triple F1 champion Niki Lauda, to dismiss the suggestion he could switch to Aston’s F1 team and take six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton with him as “total bullshit”.
Wolff stressed his Aston interest is a “personal financial investment… that has nothing to do with Formula 1”, and that it fits his Mercedes role “very well”.
Mercedes supplies engines for Aston Martin road cars because its parent company Daimler has a 5% stake in the company, so Wolff’s investment echoes that of his employer.
“I haven’t spoken to him in six or seven weeks, since Melbourne,” said Szafnauer of the reasons behind Wolff’s investment.
“I’ve seen him on a couple of these Zoom calls but I haven’t asked him that question.
“Knowing Toto like I do, I think he’s absolutely right. It was a good time to buy if you look at the share price and the trend.
“Toto’s pretty smart at that stuff he’s made a bit of money doing these sorts of things, and I think he’s absolutely right, a good time to buy.”
Stroll’s consortium took over the failed Force India F1 outfit in mid-2018 and entered Racing Point as a ‘new’ team immediately, using the same cars, resources and majority of staff.
It has run as Racing Point since then but 2020 will be the last under that name before the Aston branding comes in for 2021.
In the wake of fresh investment, including Wolff’s, Aston issued a statement from Stroll in which he commented briefly on the F1 programme, which has high expectations.
“In 2021, Aston Martin will take its place on the Formula 1 grid as a highly competitive works team for the first time in over 60 years,” Stroll insisted.
“This will give us a significant global marketing platform to strengthen our brand and engage with our customers and partners across the world.”