Mercedes teamchef Toto Wolff rapporteras ha köpt en andel i Aston Martin, ett köp som väcker en del frågor. Jag bad Scott Mitchell reda ut begreppen åt oss, vad betyder egentligen detta köp och hur påverkar detta Wolffs ställning som teamboss för Mercedes F1?
So Scott, hearing Toto Wolff has bought himself a share in Aston Martin, what can you tell us about this story?
There’s been a lot of rumours about what Toto’s up to with Lawrence Stroll for a few weeks now. Stroll’s the chairman of Aston Martin Lagonda after a massive financial commitment from a consortium he’s in charge of, and Toto’s background (other than racing) is in investment. Now Aston’s revealed Toto’s bought more than 14million shares at a cost, supposedly, of around £37million.
How big is that?
In financial terms, if that value’s correct it’s way above the market price of new shares and will be because he’s bought existing shares from Stroll’s consortium.
In real terms it’s a 4.4% stake in the company for now, but that’s about to be diluted to 0.95% because Aston will release a lot of new shares next week to raise funds.
The company’s in serious financial trouble as it’s been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. Stroll’s massive investment (totally £262m for 20% of the company) and private investments like Wolff are vital for Aston to survive and flourish.
That’s why Wolff’s going to be happy with a stake that immediately reduces in percentage terms. Better to have 0.95% of a successful company than 4.4% of one that dies!
What does this mean regarding his role as team principal/shareholder in Mercedes F1?
Nothing. A Mercedes spokesperson told me that “it is a financial investment and Toto’s partnership and executive role with Mercedes are unaffected by the transaction.”
Toto’s got an unusual position as Mercedes team boss in that he has a shareholding in the team. But that’s always been a strength of the relationship.
The expectation is Toto will stay at Mercedes beyond 2020. And that’s good news for Lewis Hamilton too, as the six-time world champion’s made his appreciation of Toto very clear.
For a long time their fates have seemed intertwined. That doesn’t mean Lewis is about to invest in Aston! But if Toto’s going nowhere, Lewis seems almost certain to stay put as well.
Is it weird for one team executive to be linked to another?
I appreciate it might seem odd that Toto is a team boss/shareholder of one works team and will now have a personal investment in another competitor.
This isn’t the first time Toto’s been split across two teams though, as he retained his Williams shares for some time after leaving that team to take up his role at Mercedes.
Back in the day, Flavio Briatore and Tom Walkinshaw were directors at Benetton and owned Ligier at the same time.
But it’s even stronger in this case because Toto will now be linked with two works team from 2021, as Stroll is also owner of Racing Point and is rebranding that team Aston Martin as part of his investment.
But Mercedes/Aston are already closely linked because Mercedes supplies engines for Aston’s road cars and Daimler has a stake in Aston.
Toto is investing in line with Mercedes – not going rogue and doing something else.
What does this mean for Racing Point F1 who is becoming Aston Martin F1 from 2021?
It changes nothing in principle as Toto’s investment isn’t tied specifically to an F1 deal, whereas the original Stroll consortium investment in Aston was a vital part of Racing Point’s rebranding.
However, it does further consolidate the ties between the two teams. I’ve no doubt people will now see Racing Point/Aston as Mercedes’ B team.
That was already becoming the case. Mercedes had a technical relationship with Force India for years and that has only strengthened since Force India died and Racing Point took the team/business over.
This year we’ve got the argument over Racing Point having a ‘pink Mercedes’ because it has willingly admitted it is trying to replicate last year’s title-winning Silver Arrows.
The relationship might get cosier in the years to come, and even if it doesn’t Mercedes/Aston will remain very closely aligned.