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When McLaren announced the signing of Eric Boullier as the new Racing Director, some astute Formula 1 fans asked, “what the heck is a Racing Director? Is that a new Ron Dennis phrase for team principal?”

While some were stumped as to why the team hadn’t asked Ross Brawn to fill the team principal role, others were wondering what the Racing Director would do if they were answering to a new position of chief executive officer who reports to the group chairman which is Ron Dennis himself. What exactly is McLaren doing with its new organizational flow chart?

While all those titles and roles might be confusing, it was business director and head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, Toto Wolff, who actually shed some light on the matter telling Formula1.com:

“The times where one person decided over politics, shareholder issues, organisation management and actual racing doesn’t exist any longer,” said Wolff.

“We believe our management structure is the right answer to the needs of a modern Formula One team.”

It’s an interesting thought because many fans were using Mercedes as a prime example of too many cooks in the kitchen. With Toto Wolff, Ross Brawn, Paddy Lowe, Niki Lauda and originally Nick Fry, the team was clearly taking a foreign path to what F1 fans have always known—a team principal. The team has since parted ways with Brawn and Fry leaving Lowe, Wolff and Lauda as the tip of the leadership triumvirate.

“That position [team principal] is a thing of the past,” said Wolff.

“You don’t have the equivalent of a team principal in any other sport, let alone companies,” Wolff told the official formula1.com website on Friday, saying the role was a legacy of the past.

“Look at football: you have a trainer, then you have a team manager and then you have the man who is looking after the commercial side.

“That team principal position comes from the team founders – those iconic men who founded the teams: Frank Williams, Ken Tyrrell and even Ron Dennis, who were running every aspect of their teams.”

It now seems that even Ron Dennis understands that the old ways—his old ways—are not what Formula 1 needs now. If you’re looking for a new Ross Brawn, Flavio Briatore or Sir Frank Williams, you may not find them in the future of F1.

The role that Eric Boullier accepted at McLaren as Racing Director makes a little more sense now considering it seems to be modeled after Mercedes and their direction for the running of a F1 team.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Rapierman

    Hello, Toto? MY football started with position coaches, a whole bunch of trainers, doctors and other medical support, then moved up the line to the three “coordinators” (offense, defense and special teams) and then to the Head Coach, the equivalent of your “team principal”. IndyCar and NASCAR still have “crew chiefs”, the equivalent of your “team principal”. Don’t tell me this concept’s dead.

  • Tom

    Toto is absolutely right. F1 teams have grown to the point where one man can no longer be all things to all people.

    BTW, Toto is not just involved in F1, his role as head of Mercedes-Benz motorsport includes all areas they are active in. He’s also in charge of their DTM involvement for example.

    • Tom Firth

      Correct Tom and I also think with that overarching involvement, It’s the reason why Mclaren have followed a similar path with the company having its customer GT3 programme too to consider now.

  • Julian

    Absolutely not a thing of the past, Grace still calls them all team principals, I just go by whatever Grace says.