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Formula 1

Toto Wolff reveals ‘mid-life crisis’ before Mercedes F1 career and thoughts of quitting amid Covid mental health strife

MERCEDES chief Toto Wolff has revealed he considered walking away from Formula One while struggling during the coronavirus lockdown.

Having put together a hugely successful record as team principal of the seven-time double world champions, the Austrian has opened up on how he very nearly didn’t get into motorsport at all.

Toto Wolff is guiding Lewis Hamilton in their latest world title bid

After a career behind the wheel, the 49-year-old opened up on a ‘mid-life crisis’ he experienced before getting involved with the Williams F1 team just over ten years ago.

Wolff told a University of Oxford discussion, via GPfans: “I found out that as someone who is more in the spotlight in front of a camera representing fantastic brands such as Mercedes and Petronas, I need to be authentic.

“But I have also seen that when I see people that have, let’s say, more visible roles, you tend to think they are happy and have everything in their lives.

“Good relationships, money and success… The truth is, that is not a universal rule.

“I myself, before I joined F1, I had a real mid-life crisis. I didn’t know whether I should stay in finance or whether I should do something else and I found myself at the Monaco Grand Prix, by sheer coincidence.

“For me, everybody who was there working for the teams was living just the perfect life, so fast forward 20 years and I find myself in the same situation.

“We just need to understand that we all have bad days, bad weeks or bad months where we need to spend time with ourselves and comprehend what makes us happy and not.

“I think this reflection helps you better understand how you want to structure your life.

“Like many other people, I’ve struggled from mental health issues and I have a great team.

“This is not a universal, ‘I am pathologically ill’, it is more that I acknowledge that all the best people I have worked with, they have down time.

“And if they have a great group around them, the group will carry the ball. For me, that was last year.

“Covid came and I didn’t know if I wanted to continue in the sport, if I was a one-trick pony or whether finance was where I wanted to come back [to].

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“And for months, I couldn’t find an answer to my question and then you are not your best self.

“In order to protect the organisation, in order to create the best possible framework, you need to look after yourself.”

Wolff is guiding Lewis Hamilton towards a potential record-breaking eighth championship.

And he paid tribute to the work of the entire Mercedes team in ensuring everyone is able to look after their mental health.

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He continued: “This is something my technical director [James Allison] used when I said, ‘I am just not the best me and I will come back in a few days’.

“He said, ‘Take all the time because when you come back, you need to sprinkle your magic dust. If you don’t feel like you can at the moment then that is okay, we will carry the ball’.

“That is something that I found really reassuring and showed that the organisation that we have all been a part of is really strong, that if you need to put yourself out for a moment, someone else is going to carry the ball.”

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