F1's Toto Wolff Reveals He Was Close to Leaving Sport Due to 'Burnout' Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

© AP Photo / Clive MasonMercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain, left, celebrates with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff on the podium after winning the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at the Istanbul Park circuit racetrack in Istanbul, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain, left, celebrates with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff on the podium after winning the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at the Istanbul Park circuit racetrack in Istanbul, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.03.2022
Burnout, which the WHO has classified as an occupational syndrome, has increased dramatically in the last two years. The issue, which is characterised by feelings of exhaustion, greater mental detachment from one's job, or sentiments of cynicism about one's profession, has a negative impact on productivity and can be harmful to a person's health.
Toto Wolff, principal and CEO of the $1 billion Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team, was so burned out in 2020 that he seriously considered selling his stake in the organisation, Business Insider reported on Saturday.
In an interview with the outlet, Wolff, who is considered one of the most successful principals in motorsport history with eight Constructor Championships to his credit, claimed that in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, he pondered leaving Formula One and returning to his previous job in finance.

"Although I was functioning, I wasn't able to deliver 100% of what I used to before I burned out", Wolff is quoted as telling Business Insider.

Wolff said he spent a lot of 2020 at home thinking whether or not he wanted to keep running the team. He claimed he alerted Mercedes management of his need for time and space to contemplate his future.

"I gave it all my energy, and at the moment I can't give it", he recalled saying. "And I believe that if I'm too actively involved, people are going to feel that I'm not the Toto that I was before".

Perfectionism appears to be a major risk factor for athlete burnout, according to sports psychology research.
And despite burnout being particularly prevalent today, it is still considered a taboo subject. Wolff, who told Business Insider he'd been "affected by mental health issues" since he was 18, said he hoped that his candor, as well as those of athletes like gymnast Simone Biles, tennis player Naomi Osaka, and F1 driver Lando Norris, would encourage others to be more open about their own struggles.

"I think we can make our organisations so much better by destigmatising that topic and making our life so much happier", Wolff said.

Wolff claimed that he was in a depressed state that year, when much of the world was under COVID-19 lockdown.

"My wife said: 'I could see it coming. You hardened, you didn't have any bandwidth, you didn't have any room anymore for mistakes'", he described what his wife Susie Wolff, the CEO of Venturi Racing, told him.

Wolff underwent therapy every day for a year, exercised, meditated, and attempted cognitive-behavioural therapy. The CEO claimed he no longer relies on daily treatment or meditation since escaping his "mental Siberia", as he put it, according to the report.

"I think if you are not in pain, you are not necessarily in need of all those things", he said. "But that resource is there. I know it's there to protect me if it were to happen again".

He reportedly told the media that those employees who work behind the scenes in the paddocks, building garages, disassembling cars, changing engines, and swiftly swapping out tyres during races, are most at risk for burnout.
And as a manager, Wolff believes it is his obligation to care as much about his employees' mental health as he would any harm to their physical health, and he believes that managers who have not dealt with mental illness may struggle to understand the gravity of their employees' demands.

"These are the people we need to protect and consider in the calendar", he said. "We want people to be happy to work in a Formula One and not bail out because they simply can't do it anymore physically and mentally".

Wolff and Mercedes have completed one of the most dominant runs in sports history, having won their sixth consecutive team championship and sixth straight driver's championship — five with F1 champion Lewis Hamilton and one with German driver Nico Rosberg. Every year, the most successful F1 car designer receives the Constructor Championship title, while the most successful driver receives the Driver Championship title.
As the outlet noted, due to the popularity of the Netflix docu-series "Drive to Survive", Wolff has now become one of the most famous faces in the sport.
Let's stay in touch no matter what! Follow our Telegram channel to get all the latest news: https://t.me/sputniknewsus
To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала