Toto Wolff has claimed that Red Bull tried to sign around 100 staff from Mercedes’ High Performance Powertrains division to join its new Formula 1 engine project.
Red Bull’s recruitment drive for its new Red Bull Powertrains arm that will take over Honda’s F1 power unit at the end of the year and build the team’s first in-house engine for 2025 is in full flow.
The Milton Keynes squad has already announced a total of six signings – all of whom have had previous experience at Mercedes – including Ben Hodgkinson, who has been poached from HPP to lead Red Bull’s division.
Following the news of the latest five appointments on Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, Mercedes CEO Wolff said he was not surprised by Red Bull’s strategy.
“It’s pretty obvious that if you want to set up an engine factory in the UK, there is only one, and that is us,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1.
“We have 900 or so employees there, and if we are fishing out 15 of these or so, that’s pretty normal.
“But they went mainly after manufacturing staff, so it’s not really performance. I guess they want to build up the company.
“But credit to the project, it’s a Mount Everest to climb. I’d like to have a fight with Red Bull power units.”
Wolff went on to add that Red Bull had “approached 100 people or so, and they got 15 maybe.”
In response to Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko’s claim that Mercedes had offered to double the salaries of its staff in a bid to keep them, Wolff suggested that Red Bull went even further.
“Doubling the salaries is one thing, but if you triple them, at a certain stage, you’re not going to compete any more, even for loyal people,” he said.
“But it is what it is. I respect everybody that wants to defend his business or build his business, and the retaliation time has not yet come.”
Also speaking to Sky earlier on Friday, Red Bull F1 boss Christian Horner said it was an “inevitability” that the team would be looking to sign staff from Mercedes.
“I think there is an inevitability that obviously we’re based in the UK, we’re only 30 miles up the road from Brixworth where Mercedes have chosen to build their engines in the UK,” he explained.
“And they’ve done that for a reason because the talent is within the UK. I think for us bringing the engines on site within the campus, fully integrating it with the chassis is tremendously appealing.
“We’ve been very flattered by the amount of approaches that we’ve had. Of course, we’re starting with a clean sheet of paper and it’s important to get the right people in the right positions.
“Obviously, we’ve had quite a bit of success in attracting some fantastic talent on top of the talent that we will inherit from Honda when they depart at the end of the year.”