Mercedes boss Toto Wolff opens up on tragedy of losing his dad to cancer at just 15 and says it motivated him to succeed | The Sun

MERCEDES boss Toto Wolff has opened up about the tragedy of losing his dad to cancer when he was just 15 – and says it has motivated him to become the successful F1 boss he is today.

Wolff, 51, was born in Vienna, a two-hour drive from the venue for this weekend's Austrian GP.

His net worth saw him announced as a billionaire by Forbes earlier this year – but it was a far cry from the financial hardship and loss he experienced as a child.

He said: "There is a certain genetic predisposition that you have, you are good at things, bad at others.

"You have a certain degree of talent but there is a big influence obviously through your childhood and I believe that there were many effects in my life — humiliation and trauma — that were beneficial for my later career.

"I would rather that they did not happen. So it is a mix in my opinion.

"Talent needs to meet hard work, there needs to be ambition, particularly with children and teenagers who grow up, the right support network and then a big portion of luck.

"It [his father's death] has an impact until today. Since I can remember my father was ill with the brain cancer and suffered with it for 10 years and then eventually died when I was 15.

"That is a time when as a boy you need the father. That wasn't the case with me. We were in financial difficult circumstances that didn't help either.

"So that certainly is part of how I am today with all the bad sides that come with it, the trauma, but also on the other side, I think ambition and eagerness to do well."

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The death of his dad has motivated Toto Wolff to succeedCredit: Alamy

Wolff started his career in motorsport as a driver in 1992 competing in the Austrian Formula Ford Championship.

He had some success and in 1994, he won the 24 Hours Nürburgring in his category.

His involvement in F1 started in 2009 when he bought a share of the Williams Formula One Team and joined the board of directors.

In 2012, he was named executive director of Williams F1 but a year later had left the team to become an executive director of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team.

Since then he has won eight constructors' titles with the Brackley-based team, forming a strong partnership with Lewis Hamilton.

And Wolff says he has always wanted to be a leader of a team that comes out a feeling of protection.

Speaking on Secrets of Success, which is available on Sky Sports and Sky Documentaries, he added: "I always had that desire of protecting the ones around me — my family and my friends.

"Also the organisation that I am lucky enough to lead, it's that professional family, that tribe and if somebody tries to do bad then it's my full force I will give it to protect them.

"First of all, you need to create a safe environment. If somebody is scared to lose his or her job then they are not going to speak up.

"So you need to prove that safe environment. Here it is allowed to make mistakes.

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"On the contrary, mistakes make us improve as tough as the situation may be. And eventually that is going to trickle down into the organisation that you can do that."

Secrets of Success is available on Sky Sports and Sky Documentaries from Wednesday June 28. Toto Wolff was speaking with Nasser Hussain, the former England cricket captain.

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