sport

Wolff swaps Williams for Mercedes

Williams have announced executive director Toto Wolff is to leave the team with immediate effect to take up a role with Mercedes.

The 41-year-old Austrian became a shareholder in Williams back in 2009, and was a prominent figure within the team during 2012 as they claimed a first win in eight years at the Spanish Grand Prix.

It is believed Wolff's move to Mercedes will effectively see him fill the shoes of Norbert Haug, who stood down as the German manufacturer's head of motorsport last month after 22 years in the role.

While Wolff will relinquish his position on the Williams' board of directors, he will retain his shareholding.

In a Williams statement, team principal Sir Frank Williams said: "I would like to thank Toto for his hard work, dedication and commitment to the team during his time as a director of the company.

"He was a key support to me as executive director last season, deputising at a number of races when I was unable to attend.

"However, positions such as the one offered to him by Mercedes do not come around often. Toto has a long history with them and I certainly was not going to stand in the way of him accepting this once in a lifetime opportunity.

"Toto will retain his shareholding in Williams and will always have a place at Grove but make no mistake; we will fight him hard on the racetrack.

"I am sure he will be a strong asset for Mercedes and on behalf of the whole team I would like to wish him the best of luck in his new role.

"I'm lucky to have a very professional group of people around me and the company's executive committee will continue the work they have been doing to ensure a successful future for the business."

Wolff has previous experience of working with Mercedes through their DTM programme.

His switch comes just a matter of months after former world champion Niki Lauda was named as non-executive chairman of the Mercedes F1 team.

Mercedes soon confirmed Wolff had joined them as executive director, with he and Lauda also becoming shareholders in the team as they look to rebuild following the signing of Lewis Hamilton from McLaren.

The Mercedes statement added Wolff will "take over the complete co-ordination of all Mercedes-Benz motorsport activities".

Wolff said: "Mercedes is one of the most important participants in motorsport worldwide. I am not only a big fan, but also a long-standing friend and enthusiast of the brand.

"I am looking forward to the challenge and, along with preparing for a successful racing season, also want to focus on the targeted promotion of new talent.

"I am leaving Williams on good terms and I will miss the team and friends I have made there. I'd also like to wish Frank and the whole of Williams the best of luck for the future."