The circumstances surrounding the sudden departure of Norbert Haug from his position as Chief of Motorsport for Mercedes, seem distinctly similar to those under which Michael Schumacher made his exit from the Formula One team. There is a definite aura of ousting regarding both exits.
“I would again like to clarify strongly it was a decision that the board and I have taken unanimously and jointly,” Norbert Haug was quoted as saying by Die Welt newspaper.
However the following quote is more telling,
“Unfortunately, with one victory in 2012 since founding our own Formula One works team in 2010, we couldn’t fulfill our own expectations.”
Or does he mean, “I couldn’t fulfill their expectations,” in the same way Schumacher couldn’t. Both departures were undoubtedly propelled by performance, or lack of. Triple World Champion, Niki Lauda, the new Non – Executive Chairman of the Silver Arrows Team confirmed this to be true of Haug on Sunday. The only difference between the exits seems to be that there was someone ready to replace Schumacher, while Haug’s departure leaves a “massive hole in the team,” as put by Michael himself.
Mercedes bowed out of Formula One at the end of the 1955 season, one in which Juan Manual Fangio drove his way to four victories with his team mate, Stirling Moss taking one. After a 54 year long sabbatical from the sport, the German motor sport giant returned to wet their beaks in 2009, supplying engines to the Brawn team for their successful championship winning year. Success that was followed by the decision to make a comeback in 2010 as a works team. During the comeback there have been glimpses of potential, Nico Rosberg‘s pole position and subsequent win in China this year, and Michael Schumacher’s third place in Valencia being the most notable. However, the resurgence of the Silver Arrows Team has not delivered on its potential or promise, and has not shown the growth hoped for, a sad fact for which Haug now pays the price.
Hans – Joachim Stuck, German Motor Racing Federation President, has suggested that Haug should not be the scapegoat for the lack of results and growth at Mercedes since their comeback, instead citing Ross Brawn as the reason for lack of success, “The failures in Formula One are solely attributable to Ross Brawn.” Team Principal at Mercedes, Ross Brawn, has proved himself in Formula One masterminding title wins with Benetton, Ferrari and Brawn GP. Norbert Haug’s experience and achievements at the pinnacle of motor sport aren’t so vast. If F1 is the overwhelming focus for Mercedes at the current time, it would seem foolish to loose Brawn.
The hole left by Haug is not just Formula One shaped though. Norbert Haug has been at the helm of Mercedes motor sport for twenty two years and was not only responsible for F1. Under his watchful eye, thirty two DTM races have been won by the German manufacturer, with the first being taken two years after his appointment to the position. He has also facilitated success in sports car racing.
It has been suggested that Niki Lauda could be be lined up to take his place, but although he possesses a good understanding of Formula One, would he know where to start regarding the other motor sport programs Haug took responsibility for?
Michael Schumacher himself has also been mentioned as a replacement and would make a better fit for the hole left. If Formula One is to be the priority of Mercedes, his accomplishments speak for themselves… He has an understanding of other motor sport having raced in Mercedes’ World Sports Car Championship before entering Formula One… His brother, Ralf Schumacher, currently races for Mercedes in DTM… He does have a remarkably good relationship with Ross Brawn… Who knows…