Toto Wolff has outlined what Jerome d’Amborsio will bring to Mercedes after the former Marussia and Lotus Formula 1 driver was appointed as the team’s driver development director.
D’Ambrosio, who made 20 F1 starts across 2011/12, had been spotted alongside Wolff in the Mercedes garage in the early weeks of the new season, leading to speculation surrounding the nature of his involvement with the team.
The Belgian’s appointment at Mercedes was confirmed at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with Wolff revealing D’Ambrosio will take on some of the responsibilities vacated by James Vowles – who left Brackley to become Williams’ new team principal over the winter – and work closely with Mercedes driver development chief Gwen Lagrue to bring through new talent.
Speaking at the team principals’ press conference in Jeddah, Wolff said: “Jerome is taking over some of James’s topics.
“He’s looking after the young driver programme in very close co-operation with Gwen, who has been doing it very successfully over the last few years with Gwen’s team.
“We are looking at grassroots motorsports from the early stages of go-karts and this is where Gwen is very active, and he was the one working with James and now within the Brackley structure Jerome has taken that over.
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“He’s looking at things and there’s plenty of scope that James did beyond the strategy work, so I see Jerome growing in the organisation but, at this stage, that’s his area.”
D’Ambrosio was most recently the team principal of the Venturi Formula E team, where he worked closely with Wolff’s wife and former F1 test driver Susie.
Wolff has revealed, however, that his relationship with D’Ambrosio goes back to the early days of the Belgian’s racing career, with Wolff even considering becoming his manager at one stage.
“I have known Jerome [for] a long time because, back in the day when he was in the Renault driver development [programme], I thought about managing him, so it’s 15 or 20 years ago,” he explained.
“And then we had a look again at him when he when he dropped out of the programme, so I’ve known him as a racing driver but never from the human standpoint and never from the managerial side.
“When Susie offered him the option to jump out of the cockpit into a management role, he took it with both hands and they were quite a good, competitive duo and Jerome led it into another year and finished second in the Formula E Championship.
“I think he has the know-how of having been a racing driver at a very high level.
“He was a go-karting World Champion, he’s been in Formula 1 and on the other side [gaining] the skills as a manager.
“So where that will lead him is a question. Today it’s a very early stage. he’s just come [into] the driver development part and administrative functions and we should see where that goes.”