Wolff: F1 misses ‘the odd hand grenade’ from Ecclestone

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Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff says the paddock misses “the odd hand grenade” thrown by former ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone since the takeover of the series by Liberty Media.

Ecclestone’s long-running stint as F1’s CEO came to an end in January when Liberty completed its $8.8 billion takeover, installing American executive Chase Carey as the sport’s new chief.

Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will mark the end of Liberty’s first full season at the helm, with its approach differing greatly from that of Ecclestone.

Numerous changes have been made, including a greater investment in marketing and infrastructure, as well as more obvious alterations such as a new F1 logo, set to be unveiled after today’s race.

Asked about the changes felt in F1 over the past year, Wolff said that the paddock missed Ecclestone’s more direct approach and off-the-cuff remarks, with Liberty taking a different, more long-term approach to its management.

“12 months ago Bernie was around. We miss the odd hand grenade flying through the paddock, but this is new times and what we need to do is support the new owners and the management to grow Formula 1,” Wolff said.

“I wouldn’t want to predict what will be in 12 months from now. There are some things that have been kicked off, some good, some less so to us, but most importantly we are all stakeholders of this fantastic sport.

“Coming back in 12 months I would like to wish that this sport is growing in audiences, growing in fan appeal and that’s basically it.”

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner echoed Wolff’s comments, saying the fruits of Liberty’s current efforts would begin to show in the coming years.

“As Toto says, many things have changed. This time last year Bernie was still running the show, and obviously in January the business was sold and a new management structure came into place,” Horner said.

“I think what’s been quite interesting and quite dynamic about that is that there has been a steep learning curve for the new guys involved but they have embraced ideas and concepts.

“They’ve come with a very fresh, unbiased approach and while they have been going through a learning phase, a building phase over the last nine or ten months, a lot of things that may seem trivial have changed – just how we deal on a day-to-day basis.

“I think what is going to be fascinating is to see the lessons that been made this year, the infrastructure that’s been put in place, the people that have recruited, how that’s going to affect future years.

“Because it’s not going to be just next year, it’s going to be the next three to five years.”

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
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Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.