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Mercedes turns the page as Haug leaves “by mutual agreement”
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Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Dec 2012   |  1:18 am GMT  |  206 comments

Mercedes’ F1 programme is set for significant change after it was announced today that Motorsport Director Norbert Haug has left the company after 22 years at the helm.

Haug recently celebrated his 60th birthday, so there is a sense that his time had come to move aside and let a new generation take over.

However there is more to it than that.

It is a major moment for Mercedes and signals a change of direction and of culture. Haug, a former motoring journalist turned corporate player, has been at the helm since 1990 and brought Mercedes into F1 in 1993, initially with Sauber.

He worked alongside Ron Dennis during the McLaren Mercedes years and then played his part in splitting from McLaren to buy out Ross Brawn and run Mercedes’ own team.

That project has not delivered the expected results, despite investment and commitment from parent company Daimler and it is clear in Haug’s parting words that he recognises that his head was on the block as the results were not good enough,

“Since 1991, we had tremendous achievements and wins, for which I want to thank all of my colleagues,” he said. “Unfortunately, with one victory in 2012 since founding our own Formula One works team in 2010, we couldn’t fulfil our own expectations. However, we have taken the right steps to be successful in the future.”

This is corporate speak for, “We failed and I take the blame.” It’s sad for a long career like this to end in failure, but its surprisingly common.

The whole Mercedes project has shifted emphasis and tone since the curious decision was taken by Daimler’s board to hire Niki Lauda in an “overseeing” capacity. Lauda will not be based at Mercedes F1 in Brackley, but will stick his oar in and throw in the odd hand-grenade when he feels like it.

This structure has “trouble” written all over it and one wonders how long Ross Brawn will tolerate such an influence on the programme.

The flip-side of this point of view is that since taking over from world champions Brawn GP at the end of 2009, Mercedes has not got close to building a championship winning car.

Brawn and his team appear to have lost the winning touch and Haug has looked a marginalised figure at races, often sitting by himself, not hands-on with the racing. Taking that view, clearly Mercedes felt change was needed. Lauda helped to broker a deal with his old friend Bernie Ecclestone, which gave Mercedes the revenue and status it felt it deserved and thus he has proved his usefulness.

But can they become a winning force in today’s F1? Is it possible for a corporate company like Mercedes to do what Toyota, Honda and BMW all failed to do? Only Renault in recent times has come in and won world titles, but they did it by sticking close to the Benetton model laid out by Flavio Briatore.

Mercedes has laid a lot of ground-work. The wind tunnel was upscaled this year, the pieces are in place to compete and the engine facility is second to none. Great hopes are pinned on the new generation 2014 engine.

But the competition is ferocious; Mercedes has to be as sharp as Red Bull, as cunning as Ferrari and as fast-developing as McLaren to win something in F1, even with the fastest driver now under contract. Hamilton has lost a close ally at the heart of the team, but there are other familiar faces around and anyway he has a direct line to the chairman if things get difficult or political.

Haug was a great survivor and managed to come through many storms unharmed.

But his time has now passed.

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206 Comments
  1. Chris says:

    There must have been some behind the scenes tensions between him and Lauda. I can’t see them getting on very well in such a high pressure environment. Sad to see that the board would side with Lauda (even if his role in the F1 scope may have played out well) over Haug who has been the face of Mercedes Motorsport for a lot longer and a lot more influentially.

    You said it when you stated F1 is cut throat.

    1. toleman fan says:

      +1

      James, I -thought- -you- were the one person recently who’s been arguing to absolve Lauda from responsibility for the Jaguar F1 failure, implying that he’s a smart businessman and organiser who can be an asset to Brackley (when most everyone else was arguing pretty much the case you make here).

      Do I misremember, or has new information emerged and caused you to reconsider?

  2. Steve Rogers says:

    Niki Lauda is one of the loosest cannons in F1 and I have no clue what help he is supposed to be giving.

    1. Michael C says:

      plus 1 – and your final comment was unkind James

      1. db4tim says:

        “unkind” why ?

      2. Stuart Harrison says:

        How can it be unkind when it’s a statement of fact?

      3. Gareth says:

        Lauda the man who destroyed Jaguar in 2001 and 2002, wasnt he fired in 2003 and shown the door to his own company Lauda air?

    2. AuraF1 says:

      +1

      Lauda has launched into some insane tirades over the past few years (sure we all remember his slamming Lewis repeatedly in 2011) and he seems like the sort who’d lurch from one extreme to another. I can’t imagine that sitting well with brawn. Hmm – expect to see Ross call it a day soon then too?

      1. JEZ Playense says:

        I doubt Ross will put up with shenanigans in his work place…

        Looking worse and worse for Hamilton, but better and better for Alonso, Raikkonen and Vettel.

      2. And, we’ve seen several reports from James, thank you very much, regarding how RB has been positioning himself for moving on as well. In construction terms: Laying the Groundwork, so to speak, eh?

    3. Wade Parmino says:

      Yes, it is rather puzzling. I imagine Lauda will get on the phone to Brawn and it’ll be something like this.

      Lauda: “So, how is ze car going?”

      Brawn: “Good, everything’s fine.”

      Lauda: “Vell, zis is vot I vont you to do. (endless list of demands). You got zat?”

      Brawn: “Yes, not a problem, will do. Bye.”

      Lauda hangs up the phone.

      Brawn: “OK, that takes care of that. Now, back to running a racing team.”

      I cannot see the situation being anything other than an annoying chore for Brawn.

      1. Enzo says:

        Brawn: “OK, that takes care of that. Now, back to Maranello.”
        Now that would be nice.

      2. toleman fan says:

        “Back to Enstone” has a nicer ring to it,don’t you think? ;)

    4. 6 Wheeled Tyrrell says:

      I have the utmost respect for Lauda the driver, but as a manager I believe he leaves a lot to be desired, there are reasons as to why he wasnt retained by Red Bull once they bought the team from Jaguar.

      He may be well connected, but the boys in Stuttgard would be wise to leave Brawn do his thing unencumbered by a character like Lauda looking over his shoulder all the time.

    5. zombie says:

      No, that has to be Jackie Stewart. But yes, Nicki would be a close second. I still recall him doing “wonders” at the old Jaguar team !

      1. Steve Rogers says:

        I don’t agree. I think Jackie makes a lot more sense and certainly isn’t as rude as Niki can be.

      2. toleman fan says:

        +1

        Stewart may get a bit up himself on occasion, but he understands the corporate game and he plays nice with his sponsors and funders. Hardball on the financials, sure, but he doesn’t diss people who are bankrolling him publicly, and he bigs up his sponsors and commercial partners.

      3. Arno Nonymous says:

        Jaguar had other troubles than Lauda, namely a Ford management that was constantly changing personnel, always fiddling about between the hands of those supposed to run the team, having a hedgehog in their pocket. First there was Ressler, then there was Rahal and before the team was able to settle, Lauda was brought in in the middle of the season, which was quite frankly a punch in the face of everyone. Even worse, they also cut his budget and after that didn’t change things for better, after just a year, they fired him to get Tony Purnell in. What chances did Lauda have? What chances did anyone have in this madhouse? Changing personnel all the time, leaving the team no rest to establish some operation method has never ever done any good to any team in the world, whether it’s a formula 1 team, a football team, or a team of software engineers. The latest testimony of such a mismanagement has been HRT and also Mercedes has constantly been restructured. There has to be a period of time that is long enough for changes to take effect, see what’s wrong and what’s good, before _carefully_ taking care of the remaining problems one at a time.
        It was not before RedBull that Milton Keynes came to rest and even under Horner and Newey the team needed several years to settle down and find their flow. As long as Lauda lets Brawn do his job properly and takes proper care of problems instead of causing distraction, everything will be okay.

  3. Jose says:

    I’m guessing that the departure is by the pressure of the shareholders. Isn’t it?

    Because my team is named “Mercedes” it’s going to be successful no matter what?

    I think that Red Bull had shown the secret of success in F1. Take a lot of money and throw it to THE BEST PEOPLE AVAILABLE.

    Except of the drivers, they only get lucky. :P

    Ferrari and Mercedes, take note.

    McLaren was unlucky. Best car of the grid at the end of the season.

    1. schumerak says:

      right on –

      you think Ferrari would have learnt this lesson seeing it’s what they did from 1996 to 2004, but then they got carried away and started putting home grown talent into top positions and we all know what happened…

      ….just that Rubens never got lucky :)

  4. madmax says:

    Sad that this hopeless Brackley team has now tainted both Schumacher and Haug by pushing them forward as scapegoats and Button wasn’t exactly looking great until he got the Brawn chance. Apart from that Brawn year is that 2 wins in 13 years?

    Everyone talks about how Merc is going to have a great chance in 2014 but it was said the reason Schumacher kept delaying his contract was that he just wanted one more year and not 2 which was what Mercedes wanted him to sign up to.

    If everyone at Mercedes is so sure about this great car in 2014 why did Schumacher seem so unsure by not wanting to commit?

    1. Wade Parmino says:

      It didn’t do Villenueve any favors either when it started out.

      If Schumacher did want to only stay one more year he could have just taken the two year contract and then if it still didn’t go that well he could simply pay the exit fee. Whatever the situation, Schumacher was treated poorly. He should have been allowed to write his own ticket. Rosberg could have been replaced with Hamilton instead.

      1. madmax says:

        But it wouldn’t be his team way of doing things by committing to the 2 years and exiting if it looked rubbish.

        Yep, poor Jacques went there as world champion and basically ruined his career.

      2. Truth or Lies says:

        Well said, Mercedes treated Schumacher appallingly and now it appear Norbert Haug as well. Typical large corporate bad decisions, watch this space as Mercedes AMG F1 fails spectacularly.

        Can’t win, won’t win.

      3. Arno Nonymous says:

        With the wind tunnel scaled up, Mercedes now have most of the ingredients it takes. All they need is time to settle and establish their method of operation and probably some more talent in the aero department. If you look at the teams where Loic Bigois has been in charge of the aero department, you will find that it does not seem like a great success story, apart from the Brawn GP championship win, where they had a monster budget from Honda and one complete season dedicated to the next year’s car (as you might recall, they wrote off their car right after the pre-season tests showed it was a lemon, broken beyond any repair). So I guess Bigois is their weakest link and once they get a great head of aero, like Nikolas Tombazis or Peter Podromou, it’s just a matter of time.

      4. DANNY says:

        Mercedes carried a journeyman for two years. Schumacher was barely matching Rosberg by the end of his contract. It’s no surprise that he didn’t fancy his chances against Rosberg in 2013 and beyond.

    2. Umar Ali Hayat says:

      +1

    3. Steve Zodiac says:

      Works team have not thrived in the modern F1 because they are too slow to respond to changes needed to keep up. even Ferrari have begun to slide since they took control back from Todt and Brawn. All the others have failed with the exception of Renault ‘cos they left Flavio alone to get on with it and didn’t keep interfering. Don’t look good fro Mercedes or Hamilton

  5. Lynn says:

    Surprise & a little sad, Haug is alikable guy!

    James, your description about the three teams is apt. Red Bull – sharp, Ferrari – cunning & McLaren – fast developing. Thumbs up!

    1. Tim says:

      Good catch Lynn. Very perceptive. I hadn’t noticed that.

      Tim

  6. Sensei.GT says:

    Bad things happen whenever Lauda is in charge. I predict major drama at Mercedes next year.

    1. Michal says:

      if it only takes him away from commenting races in german RTL I’m all ok with drama at Mercedes.

      1. Arno Nonymous says:

        Lauda once had to comment a race all alone, because Florian König was ill. It was probably one of the best RTL coverages ever with Lauda explaining technical details of F1 cars and talking to other Formula-1 people in the paddock. What a relief!
        It’s the likes of König, Ebel and Wasser who are ruining the RTL Formula-1 coverage. These guys, with their [ mod] commentary, drag everything around them down to their level.
        It’s so unbearable, that It’s better to watch a garbled ITV- or BBC-live stream over some illegal russian website, than suffering that infamous german RTL coverage. And I’m jealous of the Austrians too – Alex Wurz is surely one of the very best F1 commentators out there.

    2. madmax says:

      Two loose cannons in Lauda & Hamilton replace two ultimate team players in Haug & Schumacher.

      Should be a lot of fun to watch the drama if they have as bad a car as this year and Hamilton’s breaks down 8 or so times like Schumacher’s.

    3. Morten says:

      Well as long as he doesn’t get behind the wheel…

      He’s been pretty succesful in his life thus far. Why would you predict all would go bad? Just curious, that’s all.

      1. Richard Foster says:

        What about his involvement with Jaguar?

      2. Morten says:

        Agreed, the Jaguar period was what had me adding the “pretty” in front of the “succesful”. But besides that he’s a self-made man who’s made the most of his skills in sports and politics as well as business, skills that have made him far wealthier and have made him experience a richer life than what most of us probably ever will.

        Will be interesting to see how it all goes.

      3. Stickymart says:

        Don’t forget Lauda is ultimately in an overseeing role. He might stick his tuppence worth in the hat every now and again but it will be the car and drivers that do the talking for the big-wigs. Also, just because Hamilton has made some silly mistakes (Twitter-gate for example) doesn’t mean he’s not a team player. How long was he at McLaren…?

      4. audifan says:

        lauda has been made a non-executive director , a figurehead to make nice with the public and liase with the owners

        one word from lauda and brawn will do exactly what he wants to …if the owners don’t like it then they know what to do

      5. toleman fan says:

        @audifan:

        I don’t know whether on paper Lauda is a non-exec, but the quotes from German newspapers cited here:

        http://www.yallaf1.com/2012/12/18/lauda-already-flexing-muscles-on-the-job-at-mercedes/

        don’t sound appropriate for a non-exec to me. They don’t quite sound like the words of an executive who knows he’s responsible for the decisions that get made. The best I can say is, they sound a lot like things Helmut Marko might say.

        James – looking as well at Christian Danner’s recent call for Lauda to sack the tech staff at Brackley, is there some kind of view in Germany that Red Bull has been successful because of Marko (rather than Newey as we mostly imagine here)? Is this why Mercedes seems to want to replicate Mateschitz’ governance arrangements? Casting around desperately for explanations here. This is really messed up.

      6. toleman fan says:

        How about, because the corporate governance arrangements -look like- a recipe for endless internal bickering and no clear lines of authority?

        Maybe they aren’t, but from the outside, that’s what they look like.

        In fact, they looked like that already this year at the levels below Ross, with too many senior people and maybe overlapping roles. Now adding Lauda, they’ve got the same kind of problem right at the top. Or, to repeat, that’s what it looks like from the outside. Maybe it’s all a very smooth running gun indeed.

  7. Tim says:

    It’s all Brawn’s “baby” now. 2013 is in Limbo, but 3 years (2014-2016) had best produce a WDC/WCC.

    Tim

    1. Tim says:

      I would like to add that Mr. Haug always gave me the impression of a very decent man. I wish him well.

      P.S. Not trying to be harsh with Brawn, but I hope RB can turn things around ‘cuz the more honest competition we as fans get, the more exciting it is. (And easier to get the “fairer sex” interested, or at least tolerant , lol).

      Tim

  8. Val from montreal says:

    First MSC , now Haug …. This team was never seen as “german” within the german media outlets , even less fir the german f1 motorsport fans … If the installations and operations were based in GERMANY with surrounded by the best German enginneers , the story and situation would be alot different than how it is now …. Ferrari and Barnard based in the UK was never successful , then Todt changed all that on 1996 !! Mercedes are a disgrace in Formula One and next on the chopping block will be Ross Brawn .. Go Michael !!

    1. AuraF1 says:

      I’m not sure trying to build a german base would have achieved anything. The most successful teams are generally based in the UK. The lack of an Austrian base hasn’t harmed red bull. I think mercedes just thought they’d buy up championship winning brawn and the model of a cut sized team would prevail with the budget cap. But no budget cap emerged and red bull just outspent them.

    2. Jonathan Lodge says:

      I don’t know about the German press but as a Brit I never thought of Mercedes F1 as German either – they are no more German than Red Bull is Austrian or Force India is Indian – and who could think of Caterham as Malaysian?!

      When Mercedes took full control of Ilmor Engines they brought in German Engineers … who delayed engine development taking weeks to come to the same decision they stopped the British engineers taking.

      I find it very sad that the British have to hide their skills under foreign names – even if that is to persuade the foreigners to pay the bills.

      1. toleman fan says:

        +1,000,000.

        @Val:

        > If the installations and operations were based in GERMANY with surrounded by the best German enginneers , the story and situation would be alot different than how it is now

        You’re right, obviously. The team would be far, far less competitive.

        Don’t believe me? Remind me how Toyota Motorsport GmbH and BMW-Sauber worked out again, would you? Or better still…bring it on!

    3. adam says:

      Team BMW was based in Germany surrounded by the best German engineers. Remind us how they got on ? Toyota too was based in Germany and had the biggest budget and a poor return on investment.

      1. Schmorbraten says:

        I didn’t know Switzerland was a part of Germany.

      2. Blackjack says:

        World War II the directors cut with alternative ending.

      3. KRB says:

        I think he was talking about BMW’s engine factory.

        Blackjack, great comment. :-)

      4. Martin says:

        The BMW Sauber team retained the Hinwil factory in Switzerland. The engines were made in Munich and were in the V10 era probably the most powerful on the grid. It did go downhill from there, but I remember an analysis of the F1 engines from 2009 and it concluded the BMW was the most powerful – although clearly unreliable, and not the most fuel efficient.

      5. toleman fan says:

        Back in 2003/4, there were paddock jokes that if you swapped the engines in the Renault and the Williams-BMW, you could cover off both ends of the grid. The jokes were probably true. But the Renault chassis wasn’t German either, (Or French, obviously).

  9. jim white says:

    I enjoy your in depth articles very much, always a great read. Thankyou regards Jim.

  10. Tom says:

    Ill be surprised if Mercedes make any advances next year. Looks like a team falling apart! Hamilton is an excellent driver but lack the ability to get a team to work around him can he afford another 3 years as the team build around him before he can challenge for title number 2.

    1. Andrew Munro says:

      “Hamilton is an excellent driver but lack the ability to get a team to work around him”

      Based on what? McLaren worked around him pretty well in 2008.

      1. Steve says:

        then they shift and work aroud Button

      2. toleman fan says:

        And 2007, judging by Ron’s famous valediction to the season.

  11. Morton says:

    Mercedes’ biggest mistake, or rather Brawn’s, was made back in 2009, letting JB go. the 2010 wasn’t a bad car. Not the best but it was okay. JB would have won races could have been fighting for the driver’s title.

    1. Andrew Munro says:

      Mercedes really didn’t come close to winning a race in 2010, I rate JB highly but I doubt he’s that much faster than Rosberg that he would have been the difference maker.

    2. Andrew Munro says:

      As James says, it’s a real shame that Haug leaves the sport under something of cloud, he was a favourite of mine back during the Hakkinen vs Schumacher years.

      As other people have stated, I’ll be interested to see what Lauda brings to the table, his record of “helping” teams (Ferrari pre-Schumacher dominance, Jaguar) is patchy at best, although he had significant business success with his airline.

      Lewis, I hope you know what you’re doing…

    3. AuraF1 says:

      The 2010 car was built around jensons style something both MSC and Rosberg commented on – so I
      Imagine JB would have fared better in that car than either of the Germans. Still I’m not sure that 2010 car was quite up to challenging at the front even if it did suit the driver. The team had taken a massive cut in personnel then so I imagine they were always going to struggle.

      1. KRB says:

        W/o a doubt Button would not have fared as well in the Mercedes as he did in the McLaren, in 2010. Anyone who doubts that doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

      2. AuraF1 says:

        Anyone who didn’t read the comment on full can’t read.

      3. KRB says:

        AuraF1, mine was more a reply to the OP Morton than to your post specifically. The first part was agreeing to your assertion that with the big cut in personnel at Brawn the team was always going to have a hard time bringing updates to the car thru the year (which it so proved).

    4. madmax says:

      Are you actually serious? How many wins did Button have in the 6 years in that team before the Brawn year?
      One.

      How many wins did he have after the first 7 races that year when the other teams had the double diffuser?
      None.

      1. marc barker says:

        guessing MadMax has issues with Jenson button looking through this thread. Did he steal your sweets at school?:D

      2. madmax says:

        I am just trying to point out facts. As a person Button is easily my favorite driver but he has been well and truly hammered by Hamilton this year who in turn is easily my least favorite!!

        Any of the points earlier about Button having only 1 win at BAR/Honda before the Brawn year where 100% to show how poor the team was not Button. This last 10 years if the car isn’t good nobody can win in it unless it rains.

        Furthermore I think Button is going to dominate Perez next year and either win or come 2nd in the championship to Vettel next year.

        Hope that clears up the sweets issue!

      3. toleman fan says:

        >As a person Button is easily my favorite driver but he has been well and truly hammered by Hamilton this year who in turn is easily my least favorite!!

        +1 to all that, with the proviso that since the twitter thing, I’ve been imagining that he might be growing up a bit.

        Either way, I’ve found much more to respect in his driving this year. I’d say this was easily his best year as a driver, and that he’d have been a very deserving world champion.

      4. Jonathan Lodge says:

        now look at the other side…

        Brawn arrived and wrote off development of the Honda cars hoping that the 2009 car would prove worthy of their efforts. Jenson’s double diffuser car was Honda at their best – once under the leadership of Ross Brawn. With Honda’s money gone they couldn’t develop the car so it is no wonder that a car that had been cobbled together with a completely different engine couldn’t match the improving competition. Sadly we will never know what Button could have done in the 2010 car.

      5. JF says:

        The Honda/BAR were typically poor cars, JB didn’t have a chance.

      6. madmax says:

        Yep, that’s the point I was making rather than saying it was because Button is a bad driver.

        The Brackley team have made poor cars from the BAR days right through to 2012 apart from the first half of the Brawn season.

        They say now they had a decent car at the beginning of this year but one of their cars just went backward on race day and the other kept breaking down.

      7. dren says:

        BAR created a few good cars. Button won in one, Super Aguri scored points in it the following year. BAR came in second to the super Ferrari. Button had a few poles and front row starts. They weren’t always dogs.

      8. Christos Pallis says:

        That’s a rather nieave view. +1 to they guy that wrote how they had no money to develop the car in 2009. The teams typically improve the cars by nearly 2seco des a lap over the course of a season so for Brawn to go from 1 – 0.5 of a second advantage to prob 0.5 of a second handicap over the season without much development is quite understandable!

      9. Elie says:

        JB should dominate completely as he is a WC and has 3 years exp at Mclaren if he doesn’t completely dominate – then I’m afraid the whole world will see clearly that he is not a top 6 driver.

      10. Kay says:

        I don’t particularly rate JB as a driver, but 2007-2008 certainly wasn’t JB’s fault.

        The Honda RA107 and RA108 cars were flawed. It’s the whole structure and organisation that resulted in them unable to design or develop the car properly. JB once mentioned the car couldn’t ever be set up right, as if like the front and rear were ‘arguing’ with each other. You can probably dig that up from Google somewhere.

        2009 was just lucky for Brawn GP and Button due to a loophole, but you can see how the team was incompetent in developing the car when they were caught up by RBR and others towards the end of the season, and the car was pretty much the same as the one they had at the beginning of the season.

      11. toleman fan says:

        Not incompetent. They had no money. Williams and Toyota started the year with the double diffuser, and neither were close to Brawn out of eye box.

      12. Kay says:

        Certainly they had no money to dev the car in 2009. In all those years before they had loads of money from Honda / BAT(BAR). Right you may say in their BAR guise they got a good car one year and had one win as well, but that was a year where there were suspicion of the car resembling Ferrari’s. All other years the car always had problems, so imo the design team needs some restructuring before it can win anything consistently.

  12. Anthony says:

    James, as always great insight into the decisions made and a closer look of whats happening in F1. I didn’t understand why Haug left Merc until I read this… thanks!

  13. adam says:

    I remember in Schumacher’s heyday watching a few after race analysis programmes on RTL. Lauda was the regular expert guest.Some of the races in those days were pretty boring. Schumacher had tyres specially made for him, unlimited testing, lapdog team-mate and a reliable car so he often won. One might imagine not a whole lot to talk about but Lauda could drone on and on for hours.The German studio guests did their best not to look like sleeping wax work dummies.
    Hamilton comes from the playstation generation. He wont sit around listening to old farts for long. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lauda isn’t shown the door after 18 months or leaves of his own accord after a season.

    1. Sebee says:

      I’m beginning to feel like this is more of a Mercedes Marketing Operation than a Motorsport Operation.

      Schumi didn’t inspire them to build him a better car. Haug is now gone. I just don’t see how this whole shift for 2013 is motivating for the team. I can’t understand how a German team which wasn’t motivated by the most successful driver in F1 for 3 years, (who was also Germany by the way), will be motivated to deliver for Lewis – a young kid from UK who came firstly for the salary. If Haug’s departure is supposed to bring in the “consequence for failure” fear into the team – I’m also not sure that this is the formula for success.

      You watch this sport long enough you can draw parallels between story lines of past and present.

      Vettel is following the Schumi script.
      Lewis really does look like he’s following the Villeneuve script – and I am talking about Jacques. 1 WDC, follow the money, fade into mediocrity. Only so much Lewis will be able to cut with a dull knife.

      1. Christos Pallis says:

        I feel mortally offended for Lewis that you could compare him to Jaque Villeneuve. He was an almost talentless driver who lucked into one season with by far the best car on the grid and almost didn’t win it. Lewis, Alonso and Vettel are in a league 20 places above Villeneuve.

        Even Jaques engineers talked about his need to run insanely stiff front anti roll bar settings in order to get the responsiveness he needed to drive the car. Put any one of the three drivers named above into the other Williams that year Jaque won and he’d have been an embarrassment in comparison. End of rant…!

      2. Matthew says:

        Yeah +1 really

        To compare Hamilton & Villeneueve Junior is foolhardy.

    2. toleman fan says:

      I may be utterly wrong, but I really am beginning to wonder if Lauda has the authority to keep his job even if it means Ross and Lewis both leaving.

  14. Stone the crows says:

    It is a shame this has to happen, but as said, someone has to take the hit for the poor showing of Mercedes. It sounds like Ross Brawn is pretty much going to do Norbert’s job, since I cannot think of anything that Niki Lauda is capable of doing (other than running his mouth and pissing people off) as well or better than Norbert Haug.

    1. schumerak says:

      I wonder if Niki Lauda brings an audience (and advancement in contract negotiations) with Bernie and CVC for Mercedes

      - Almost as though Ecclestone has something in return for recognizing Mercedes as an historic constructor, and for the extra millions they will receive from him in prize and participation monies – A friend (read crony) installed into highest level of their organization.

      1. Stone the crows says:

        Yes, I hear you there. You know what they say about Formula one; “nine months of backstabbing, politics and intrigue interrupted every two weeks by a race.” So long as Bernie is running the circius it pays to have low friends in high places.

  15. Alex says:

    I think Mercedes can win a title. They seem to not be making the same mistakes other Car manufacturers turned F1 teams have made. A lot of the trouble is the pressure from the heads of the company to run the F1 operation like a business rather than a team and it doesn’t seem to work. BMW really could’ve pushed for the 2008 title but they achieved their goal of winning a race and decided not to gamble and pursue any more immediate success. That was so frustrating to see happen, even more so after what then happened to Kubica. But the manufacturing teams just don’t seem to care about efficiency. They just plug more and more money into an investment without focussing on the essentials. Red Bull and Benetton really proved how success can come quickly in Modern F1 if innovation and efficiency are placed above costs and investment strategies.

    1. Jonathan Dye says:

      Red Bull have one of the biggest budgets in F1! In 2011 they spent over $50m more than Mclaren, who aren’t short of cash. They bring new from wings to nearly every race costing tens of thousands of dollars. How are they more efficient? They are as bad as Ferrari back in the 2000s for throwing money at their cars.

      1. Christos Pallis says:

        +1 in what world do Redbull not throw a shed load more money at their F1 team than all others????

      2. Alex says:

        Efficient at the top. They throw money around, granted, but they throw it around to the right areas. For instance hiring Adrian Newey instead of eight people for one job or closely working with Renault who have other teams in F1 to suit them instead of trying to develop an engine and a chassis. Having an incentive based driver pay scheme rather than a fat pay cheque regardless of performance and constantly promoting innovation to gain results. It’s perfectly efficient and acceptable to be throwing huge budgets around if you’re earning the biggest amount of prize money and have the most attractive team to sponsor in F1 it’s just return on investment on a larger scale than Caterham achieved by finishing 10th.

    2. Stone the crows says:

      Mercedes are certainly not going to have many excuses left for a mediocre season.

  16. Steve JR says:

    James, this is an excellent piece of journalism: well written and great analysis. Thanks.

  17. Gudien says:

    Fantastic article. I read it twice!

    Wonderful to see someone has the ba… to call it like it is when it comes to Haug, Lauda, Brawn, and Merc.

  18. Daninator says:

    Wow, big news.

    Nothing against Haug, in fact I feel sorry for him that it’s turned out this way. But hopefully the team moves forward from this. Clearly they’ve got some issues if they had Brawn, ROS, and SHU at the team and still couldn’t be more successful… At least that’s what Mercedes’ management would be thinking and as a result pointed their fingers at Haug as the weakest link…

  19. Chris says:

    I don’t like that Haug has solely taken the fall for a dismal year at Mercedes, but that’s how these things play out in sports.

    What’s more alarming is the hiring of Niki Lauda. As far as I can tell he seems to haven take on the role of Mercedes’ corporate spy. With that sort of position it’s only a matter of time before he and Brawn butt heads.

    No discredit to his phenomenal career as a racing driver, but he hasn’t had the best of times working with teams in the past and he seems well beyond his expiration date in a sport that greatly needs to shake off it’s Old World style of doing business.

    I think they’ve made a big mistake bringing Lauda on board and it’s going to be very interesting to see how the Mercedes story line plays out next season.

    1. Stone the crows says:

      Too true, a lot of us remember how he ‘helped’ a Jaguar.

    2. Kay says:

      +1

      Though I reckon this started before this year.

      I recall when Merc (or Haug rather, in Merc’s name) bought Brawn GP, Merc’s CEO wasn’t particularly pleased and said the team has 3 years to prove (or else).

      I think that’s targetting more at Haug for making such move of pulling the plug on McLaren and running its own team in Merc’s name. Haug’s time was up and got beheaded.

  20. Michael grievson says:

    Hi James You seem quite angry at this, especially with Nikki Lauder “sticking is oar in” I don’t remember you using such strong opinions.

    For me the whole situation smells of disaster. Although Merc haven’t achieved what the wanted racing teams never win from the board room.

    1. James Allen says:

      Not at all. Why should I be angry. It doesn’t affect me in any way, but I shall watch with interest

      1. Nick says:

        Why should anyone be angry? can I suggest its because Lauda is such an irratating and abrasive character and in two previous stints behind the scenes with Ferrari and Jaguar he did nothing to improve either of them.

      2. Smellyden says:

        Apart from Lauda getting Merc a better deal from Mr E!

  21. Janis says:

    Well,
    Ross Brawn may be a great technical director, but not so great team principal. Nowhere near Jean Todt.
    He has not been overly successful in negotiating regulations/decisions in Merc’s favor, and has had no time to guide the actual car development process. He tried to fix it by hiring a number of big (but somewhat tarnished) names, but these have failed to steer the car development properly: “understanding tyres”, then belatedly Coanda exhaust, DDRS over all this – it’s a mess which should not have happened under a good technical director.
    With all these “big guys” around, and engine freeze in place, Haug’s role really seemed to have diminished. It’s a pity it had to end like this both for him and for Schumi. Especially because the engine was a race (and perhaps championship) winning one – as demonstrated by McLaren.

    1. toleman fan says:

      What are you insinuating against Bob Bell? How was he slightly tarnished?

  22. BlackJackFan says:

    Perhaps sad in the way it was done (being ousted, that is) but probably necessary and/or inevitable. Mercedes have to do something… and I’m certainly not in a position to say what this should be. I just hope it works…

  23. Onyx says:

    Dont think it helped losing the DTM crown to BMW in their first year back too….!!!

    1. KRB says:

      For real. After it looked pretty sewn up at mid- and even three-quarters way thru the season.

  24. PDiddly says:

    Sad to see Norbert go in this way, he has been a familiar face for years and is a man I have a lot of respect for.

    Lauda, post race career, has not impressed me. Do we have to wait till be significantly messes up Mercedes, gets moved on, or will someone there see sense ?

  25. DANNY says:

    Any team that hires Schumacher out of retirement can’t be taken very seriously. They need Lauda to keep them on track. Another failed season and it will be Brawn out or the team will fold.

    1. Wade Parmino says:

      ??? Madness.

    2. zombie says:

      Bias much ?

  26. Stuart says:

    Niki Lauda eh? Because he did SO well at Jaguar F1; turning that around….

    Haug will be missed.

  27. Enzo says:

    This has the signature of Lauda all over it.

    James,Italian media seems to be sure Ross Brawn has spoken with Di Montezemolo about a return to Maranello.
    Did yo hear anything about that?

    1. Pranav says:

      What?

      I would be very certain that Hamilton’s contract would depend on Brawn being there for a few years at the very least. That makes no sense at all.

      1. toleman fan says:

        And that is Brawn’s problem…er, how exactly?

  28. Matt W says:

    I think the problems are more deep rooted than Haug. There seems to be something in the culture of the team left over from the BAR/Honda days where they are always focusing on next year’s car. Usually we get to June or July and Pollock/Richards/Brawn start saying they are giving up and working for next season, rinse and repeat. This time they have taken the unusual step of giving up on 2013 before the car has even turned a wheel.

    This is unacceptable for a team of Mercedes resources in my opinion. When Mclaren, Ferrari or Red Bull are off the pace, they still work to try and pull things around. Mclaren in 2009 springs to mind and the car definitely benefitted in 2010 for the continued development work. It seems their constant “back to the drawing board” attitude means they are losing vital information that could be gained in continuing to work on the car.

    1. Brendan says:

      Excellent post.

      There does seem to be an undercurrent of ‘next time will be better, promise’ about Mercedes.

      It’ll be interesting to see how much Hamilton can bring/extract from the team and whether his arrival is the catalyst for a big push.

      Alternatively, if they don’t deliver a competitive car, I expect to see some toys being thrown from the pram.

      The next few seasons could make or break some very big reputations.

  29. Thomas says:

    Would there be correct to assume that parts of the Mercedes struggle steams from the lack of development done during 2009? The Brawn was a great car, but it did seem like they had very little money for actual development, something I would expect to have an impact in the 2010 car as well. Also the philosophy behind the Brawn was completely different from the current meta of F1, leaving them playing catchup to Red Bull like everyone else.

    History is not really on the team’s side for a speedy recovery, but on the the other side they now have about 50 high-profile engineers and team leaders, they should count for something^^

  30. Stuart says:

    Bit of a joke isnt it? Hes a good guy and has become a bit of a figure head for Mercedes in motorsport. I reckon he will end up at another team in some form

  31. simon mawdsley says:

    in your “Faces of 2013″ banner photo, why is Mark Webber pulling a funny face?

    1. Michael grievson says:

      I reckon Vettel has let one go

    2. Val from montreal says:

      Notice how Darren’s heath photo , Schumi is aways in the backdrop .. Nice what you did here btw, how Schumi’s &Rosberg’s heads are so conveniently blocked by the JAon F1 red logo , and grosjean’s also ??

  32. kowa says:

    every time i look at mercedes, it seems more clear to me that hamilton will be back at mclaren in a couple of years. with a few wins and no titles.
    Lauda was a great pilot, but no a good manager at jaguar. Wh

    1. Werewolf says:

      I am not persuaded either way of Lauda’s performance running Jaguar. Ford replaced the team’s often big-name managers so frequently that nothing ever really bedded in. They simply expected instant results and had no understanding of how to run an F1 team.

      1. kowa says:

        there is a story, when de la rosa was teammate’s with irvine. The irish driver ordered to put pedro’s engine in his car because it was performing very well. And the mecanics did!! either if was with niki’s knoledge or not, i don’t think is good managment in either case.

  33. Kbdavies says:

    This is not looking good for Lewis, as his relationship wih Haug is one of the reasons he signed. And if things progress naturally, i see Brawn leaving as well – as he wil soon come to loggerheads with Lauda.

    If Brawn leaves, the Lewis’s biggest supporters at Mercedes will no longer be there; and i cannot see him getting on with Lauda. I predict a early termination to his Merrcedes contract.

  34. Anil says:

    James, I heard a few mumblings in the media that Ferrari had contacted Ross Brawn about a possible return to Ferrari…Do you think he might consider this if he feels too ‘controlled’ in the corporate surroundings of Merc and doesn’t get success?

    On a side note, got your book yesterday and I’m loving it! Terrific job.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks. No I don’t see that happening

      1. Stephen Taylor says:

        But with Lauda at Merc could it be bye bye Ross sooner than later?

  35. Mo. says:

    Enzo, that really would be the final kicker.

    Auf wiedersehen, Norman, Auf wiedersehen.

    :(

  36. Jason Ryall says:

    “…….but they did it by sticking close to the Benetton model laid out by Flavio Briatore….” What was this Model?

    1. Peter Doff says:

      Models, anyone under 25

    2. Gordon says:

      @ Jason Ryall: I think her name was Naomi Campbell!!! ;)

      1. 6 Wheeled Tyrrell says:

        Haidi Klum too!

      2. 6 Wheeled Tyrrell says:

        …sorry, Heidi

  37. meg says:

    Think I predicted this some months ago. Brawn is next and the the whole team will go shortly thereafter. Give it a season or so.

    Lewis is nothing more than a pay driver equivalent for Mercedes. Eddie Jordan was right all along. Money matters!

  38. Baghetti says:

    Interesting that it is Haug that has to take the blame for the poor results since 2010 as I would expect him to be mainly responsible for the engine division, and if you ask me (and probably McLaren or Force India) there is nothing wrong with the Mercedes engine. I would say that it is rather the car design and development divisions that are underperforming, and I think someone else has end-responsibility for these divisions? So it somehow looks as if Ross is trying to buy himself some extra time by diverting the attention from the real issue here…

  39. Mack says:

    James, very good article.

    You made an interesting point that Mr Lauda will “stick his oar in and throw in the odd hand-grenade when he feels like it”.

    I am quite surprised that an organisation like Mercedes would tolerate such an action. In any organisation keen to deliver in line with its strategic plans would not allow an “overseer” or “adviser” to interfere in the operations of divisions. When this type of role is in organisations the outcome is a disaster because of mis direction and firefighting. The performance measure for the “overseer” is, in nearly all cases, “how much have you interfered with or upset the senior managers of the divisions”. The end result is a focus away from the agreed corporate direction and loss of staff morale and resultant staff turnover.

    I hope Mercedes think this one through and watch for the early signs. Mr Lauda’s “hand grenade” approach will not help Lewis have a good run at winning the WDC or Mercedes winning the constructors championship.

    I will watch this space with interest.

    1. Werewolf says:

      I agree entirely with your sentiments, Mack, but aren’t these exactly the reasons the major manufacturers have failed in F1 so far?

      They must have good management practices to succeed in their core businesses but they seem not to trust their F1 teams, who probably behave totally unconventionally from a corporate perspective; they are thrown by this and so forget about all their good practices and go into dominator mode instead.

      1. toleman fan says:

        Look at the quotes the German newspapers are attributing to Lauda right now. (you can look on Yalla).

        Grenade throwing seems a pretty fair metaphor.

  40. Monza01 says:

    Trouble is, Mercedes have looked back at their glorious achievements in the past when they overwhelmed everybody else with their engineering prowess, massive budget and germanic efficiency.

    They must also have looked at the similar achievements at Ferrari in the Schumacher years and thought that they could repeat it, especially with Ross Brawn at the helm.

    But F1 is a different world now. McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari are no longer that far ahead of the midfield so to produce a Championship winning car is hugely more difficult.

    Mercedes are used to utter domination. Even with the fastest driver on the grid, that’s no longer possible so unless Ross can work a miracle, the project is bound to end in disappointment.

    Surely they would have been better off sticking with being the engine supplier to McLaren.

    At least they wouldn’t be blamed in 2013 if the Championship’s won by Red Bull or Ferrari.

    With reputedly the most powerful engine and Lewis Hamilton on board there can be no more excuses :

    Surely Mercedes rock solid reputation for building first class road cars and trucks will start to be tarnished if they finish another year 5th, at best.

    1. toleman fan says:

      IIRC, a big part of the driver for the Brawn takeover was that Merc planned to invest -less- than it was costing them to be a partner of Mclaren, but expected to get equivalent results (& keep all the glory for themselves).

      In that sense, they kicked off from day 1 with the Ford / Jaguar play book of doing it on the cheap. It was pretty easy to predict that either they were going to have to stick their hands in their pockets, or fail to meet their targets or (like Toyota and to some extent Honda) do both.

      I seem to remember that one of Haug’s last public comments was that the Brackley operation cost Merc less than part wrong with Mclaren had done, and that the balance of cost and performance was now exactly right…except that more performance was needed, without spending more money. Good luck with that…

      1. toleman fan says:

        “Partnering” (With Mclaren). Not “part wrong”. Whoops.

  41. John Wilson says:

    Nice article James. After reading your piece and Schumacher’s comments about Haug leaving,My question to you is. Do you think Haug leaving is personal or performance related?

  42. Jon Wilde says:

    I wouldn’t be so quick to link Haug’s departure with Lauda.

    Haug is 60 years old, it is possible he wants to reduce his work commitments, I think most people, if they can afford to, would like to scale back working life. Lets not forget F1 and Motorsport in general for the likes of Haug is a job. Whilst it is a job he no doubt enjoyed, it was a job none the less. Maybe he just wanted a break.

    It should also be considered that he may have had a better offer elsewhere. VW perhaps?

    Lauda whilst seemingly (based on comments here) has a bad reputation made quite a lot of money out of his first airline, and I would imagine may have had a part to play in Red Bull moving from Sauber to Jaguar (we know how that worked out) I don’t see Lauda being too involved with day to day running of the Mercedes F1 team, rather the political elements of the sport. The role Norbert has vacated I imagine will be filled by someone else.

    1. James Clayton says:

      Well done John. Everybody’s seeing this as something sinister and, while it may well be, nobody seems to have at least considered that (as you say) perhaps Norb just felt like scaling things down a bit.

      1. Stone the crows says:

        Yes, Norbert is the ideal fall guy for Mercedes, in a high enough position to be held responsible, and also near retirment so that he won’t be completely destroyed by this move. Really if anyone is to blame it is Ross Brawn, but no one is going to fire him.

      2. James Clayton says:

        I’m guessing you replied to the wrong comment..?

      3. Stone the crows says:

        Yes, I did, appologies all around.

  43. James O'Neill says:

    “It’s sad for a long career like this to end in failure, but its surprisingly common.”

    Careers get prolonged while they are successful. Look at Manchester united, Sir Alex was supposed to have retired years ago but has been kept on because he keeps winning.

    I’m curius about Hamilton. I saw things like this
    Ham came to Mclaren-Mercedes not just Mclaren. It was effectively a works team (like Williams were for Renault in the 90s) and it was Norbert and Ron who were like parents to Lewis. When Ron went Lewis moved up the road to Norbert. It will odd for him to be forging a path with neither of them in the background.

    “Lauda will not be based at Mercedes F1 in Brackley, but will stick his oar in and throw in the odd hand-grenade when he feels like it.”

    I think that’s summed up my view of Niki’s people and diplomacy skills

  44. Richard D says:

    Maybe Haug’s departure is clearing the way for a new career for Michael Schumacer?

    1. Stone the crows says:

      Eh… no

  45. Elie says:

    Sad to see Norbert go he always seemed like pretty decent bloke but at the end of the day if thats not winning you races..then I guess it starts with him. I can’t imagine what Ross Brawn & Lewis Hamilton must be thinking right now. I just hope Nikki Lauda does not “dip his oars in too often”. They really need Brawn and Hamilton to come up with something and fast – I think Ross really only has next year to get things moving. Otherwise he is next, either way isn’t be considering retiring by 2014 ?

    There must surely be pressure on Mercedes to be a German racing team in a Germany and not Brackerly and Brixworth. Were it not for the shortage of top line technical talent in Germany Im sure it would be. Now that they have “all their ducks in a row” this will be make or break as I can’t see Mercedes name loosing credibility in F1 for too much longer. I really don’t think it would take that much to make a car like this years competitive and a fresh insight from Lewis will help I’m sure.

  46. Werewolf says:

    The main difference between Renault and the other manufacturers, I think, was that the Regie more or less just bought Benetton, threw in some funding, corporate logos and expectations, then left the day-to-ay running largely to the experienced F1 personnel it had acquired with its purchase.

    They did not seek to reinvent the wheel or fix something that wasn’t broken, perhaps having already learned that F1 is a unique field best left to those who understand it. Interestingly, when things eventually went pear-shaped (Symmonds-shaped or Briatore-shaped is almost the same thing!), they didn’t seem to impose much of a takeover but decided to get out completely.

    I guess the learning point is that the major manufacturers have enjoyed their biggest F1 successes as engine suppliers to or backers of bespoke race teams rather than by egotistically trying to mould F1 into their own, top-heavy, long-winded, boardroom-run corporate cultures.

    I consider Ferrari essentially a bespoke race team, albeit one that suffers from occasional meddling and politics, rather than a manufacturer team.

  47. Werewolf says:

    I think Norbert Haug has always shown Mercedes in a very positive light and has generally been good for the many motorsport categories with which he has been involved (inc. F3, DTM, sportscars, etc), so it is sad to see his long career end on an unsuccessful note.

    Perhaps Haug is too much of a pragmatist to have resolved Mercedes’ F1 problems (and losing Bruno Spengler to BMW and Jamie Green to Audi in DTM is regrettable). If so, one cannot say the same of Lauda, so some cultural changes may be ahead at Brackley if the Austrian is granted greater powers!

  48. simon mawdsley says:

    James – do driver contracts ever give reference to the continued employment of other members of the team? eg, “If Brawn leaves i have the option to terminate my contract and you have to pay me a truckload of cash as compensation”

  49. Sameol' says:

    Loving the book. Not much surprise that he’s been pushed. Seems that the whole team has got too many chiefs and not enough indians

  50. Rene says:

    James, when did Merc sign Kimi? You said they are getting the fastes driver…

  51. Dave Aston says:

    Maybe a change for both of them will be good. Gotta love Norbert, what a legend. Maybe he and Michael should take over the HRT licence and form Schumacher F1.

    1. Werewolf says:

      Why change the name? HRT = Haug Replacement Therapy, er better make that Haug Racing Team!

      1. Elie says:

        How about Heads Rolling Team cause that’s what happened! Lol

  52. Roger W says:

    Heads roll every day in Industry and this is no different. Mercedes are in F1 to win, and I don’t think they build a bad car, my impression is that they may have underestimated the ability of the other top teams in developing cars during the season. It may well be the rate of change that is really their problem. Also with LH joining for 2103 it would appear that this is perfect timing to have a shake up so a new structure is in place for 2104.

  53. Richard says:

    Every dog has his day, and at sixty it’s probably time for Norbert to go, and let someone with more energy take over. I expect it is just the another change needed to hopefully make this team successful. I do actually wonder about Ross Brawn, and maybe they need someone else there to help cement this team together. As to who will take on Norberts position remains to be seen as I’m not sure if Nicki Lauda would be suitable, if indeed intended, so let’s wait and see what transpires.

  54. Alan Li from Toronto, Canada says:

    With Niki Lauda joining Mercedes, and based on his past records in non-driving role, it only spells one word to Ross Brawn and the Brackley team – DISASTER!! Hope Lauda keeps his mouth shut and let Brawn does his magic. Lewis now must have wondered angrily why he chose to leave McLaren for a challenge he probably cannot win by the end of his contract.

    1. CH says:

      yeah, other than whatever BE brokering he helped with, I just don’t see the chemistry of Lauda over Norbert.

      Ross and Norbert=yes, Ross and Lauda…..

  55. Nick says:

    I think Lauda is very bad news for Mercedes, very bad.

  56. Davexxx says:

    James, did you ever get any inkling that Haug might be valuable to any other team now, and in what capacity?

  57. Robert says:

    Having second thoughts Lewis ?

  58. F12012 says:

    I remember him working with jaguar and we all know what they won

    Plus Haug was always fond of Lewis, wonder what Lewis will be thinking

  59. Laurence H says:

    Can’t believe no-one has commented on your statement that Mercedes now have the fastest driver. I think I agree, but I’m surprised nobody has commented…

    1. Stone the crows says:

      The hiring of Hamilton means that Mercedes will have to bring a superior car and develop it throughout the season. Hamilton’s presence means no more excuses.

      1. Laurence H says:

        I’m sure that Schumacher was demanding no more excuses too…

  60. db4tim says:

    …her name ….or ?

    1. db4tim says:

      OOPS…that was weird

  61. FerrariFan says:

    Its sad. I liked him. I can see Mercedes going even further downhill with Lauda. Didn’t he have something bad to say about Hamilton last year ?

    1. Werewolf says:

      Lots of people had bad things to say about Hamilton last year because he was not delivering to his potential. From the evidence of this year, he has taken that criticism on board constructively, so hopefully he will not have an issue with Lauda on that issue, even assuming there is much direct communication between them.

  62. Steven says:

    Could they be making room for Herr Schumacher?

    1. Stone the crows says:

      No, for all his time in Formula One Michael is no where near as politically minded as Nikki, nor as harsh and cynical as Nikki is.

  63. The entire BAR / Brawn / Mercedes team has struggled for a long time. Victory came in 2009 as the result of a development (the double diffuser) that they had and nobody else did that made them unbeatable.

    I do not think it is a surprise that Button chose to leave the outfit despite winning the championship with them – he saw the writing on the wall

    I do not believe it is only Haug’s fault for these issues, but he no doubt has made promises he couldn’t keep and paid the price. I suspect Brawn is as much at fault given his tenure with the team, but I bet he has guarantees in his contract for a number of years so they could not get rid of him.

    With Lauda, Mercedes seem to be trying to replicate the Helmut Marko Red Bull relationship. Don’t know if this will work, but they clearly need to try something different.

    1. Arno Nonymous says:

      Why are you spreading wrong facts? Toyota and Williams both also had a double diffuser and they did not dominate the competition as Brawn did. Fact is: Honda stopped the development of their car right away, when it was clear it was a catastrophe and fully concentrated on the next season. When Honda pulled the plug in the end of the year, Brawn inherited a car that was over half a year ahead of the competition, plus he got one of the best engines, the Merc, that luckily fit pretty well into it. He also had two world class drivers. And even though with the pretty small Brawn budget they could not keep up with the development race, they managed to save the title. That’s by no means a fluke, nor just a “double diffuser”, that was simply very good, long and expensive engineering. Toyota, who had a similar budget than Honda, and who also had a double diffuser from the start and two world class drivers, were less good.

      1. Certainly very true that Toyota and Williams had the double diffuser as well – so you are right – and it is true that Brawn certainly made the best of it

        But you would agree that this is the main reason they were able to beat Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren who did not have it, which was my point (although I also except your points re the longer development time and Mercedes engines)

        I was always a fan of the BAR team and I am a big fan of Brawn. I think he is a genius for engineering the buyout the way he did and his record at Ferrari speaks for itself

        So I guess my question to you in relation to the above is how do you explain their lack of long term performance (bar 2009 and maybe 2004)?

      2. Arno Nonymous says:

        Lots of reasons. Under Honda Management, I think it was a lack of proper organization. Shuhei Nakamoto wasn’t pretty experienced as TD for Formula 1, Kevin Taylor hasn’t been chief designer anywhere else in F1 before.
        I guess it took Brawn to put some things right under Honda.
        When Brawn bought the team, sponsors gone and budget cut, people had to be fired and the team restructured to cope with the smaller budget, when Mercedes bought it, it was once again restructured, then Merc pumped up the budget once again, new people were hired, structures were changed once again. A team need to come to rest to work properly.
        Then 2011 they tried a too ambitious development plan. Remember 2011 they brought updates in quick sucession without fully understanding them (part of that was a lack of proper simulation and their outdated 50% wind tunnel), they changed the strategy for 2012 – and in the middle of 2012 they scaled the wind tunnel up to 60%.
        Other than proper organization, a team needs some steadines, in the recent years the biggest problem for the team has been that they had to react to changes rather than build their car properly.
        And a team need to take the right design decisions and Mercedes have had some bad luck there: The double DRS created a stiff front wing, that made introducing flexy wings or a flexy nose (RedBull) virtually impossible. Then there was the coanda-exhaust: Merc also had a big problem with overheating rear tires in the last 2 years 2011 their wheel base was too short: Higher center of gravity, more tire load, more heat. 2012 they had rear tyre problems once again, despite the longer wheel base they compensated the lost blown diffuser too much. And the coanda exhaust actually made things worse. But you can’t just redesign the whole car in the middle of the season and rescale your wind tunnel at the same time.
        Now, counter measures have been taken: Aldo Costa will be responsible for the chassis mechanics, which was their 2011 and 2012 problem, Willis is taking care of simulation, which has become more important and which was one of their big weak spots.
        Now I’d think their biggest weakness lies in the aero department and the QA department. Loïc Bigois has not been the most successful aerodynamicist in the world. They need someone like Peter Promodrou, Nicolas Tombazis or John Iley. Still I think they are pretty well set up for the future. As soon as they have learned how to get the best out of their new wind tunnel, I expect it to look pretty good.
        Despite their QA problems, it didn’t look too grim in the first part of the 2012 season, did it?

      3. Well I can’t reply to your message directly Arno :) so hopefully you check this

        Incredible analysis of the history so far under Brawn – I had no idea there had been so many issues etc.

        It shows just how difficult it is to get it all right in F1.

        I agree absolutely re the point around stability – this is important for any organisation to perform – and to the second part of your answer it is useless if you have the wrong people in the first place.

        Hopefully they can pull this together for 2014- I hope so as I was very disappointed to see Toyota and BMW leave the sport the way they did with so little success

        I guess at the end of the day somebody had to fall on their sword for the mistakes and that was Haug. I stick by my point that Brawn has to shoulder some of the responsibility as well given how long he has been with the outfit – but I would probably prefer him in my organisation rather than out

        ps. +1

  64. Alex says:

    James, 

    In terms of the structure at MB, my understanding is that Lauda’s role was limited to the F1 team. Is that still the case? Norbert’s role was wider than F1 (DTM, GT, F3, etc); are there any suggestions as to who might replace Norbert? 

    Also have you been able to get a sense of how people at Brackley feel about Norbert’s departure?

    1. toleman fan says:

      Excellent questions. James?

  65. RA109 says:

    Is Nick Fry still around? He seems to have avoided taking the fall for anything his entire career…

    1. Werewolf says:

      I’ve often had the same thought! Maybe he’s a good number 2 with specific responsibilities but less effective as the leader.

    2. toleman fan says:

      Didn’t I see him referenced (as MD?) just a couple of weeks ago, for the first time in ages?

      Think it was on this website, in a reference to an F1 business forum. I may be completely wrong. Delusional, even.

    3. Kay says:

      If I remember correctly, he takes care of the business side of MGP AMG ever since Brawn came in, whereas Brawn takes care of the F1 operation.

  66. as others have said, results were not forthcoming and haug paid the price. my problem with this is simply that RB has come out of this squeaky clean. after all brawn is responsible for the producing the car.

    if the car is a dog then he should be held responsible or is this too simple? brawn has not produced a winning car in three years so how come he is not the one being waved goodbye? i would be seriously looking at him as a possible candidate for divestment.

  67. Elie says:

    James , any serious talk of Michael Schumacher taking up Norberts post??. I seriously hope not.He just keeps keeps lingering to his old teams causing trouble for people that don’t need him.

    1. James Allen says:

      Well, Mercedes will need company man to be a face at the team, someone who represents the manufacturer. Lauda is more of an empowered consultant.

      The obvious choice is Ola Kalenius, who used to run Mercedes’ Brixworth engine department and is now CEO of AMG, but he would probably see it as a downwards move. Will be interesting to see who they pick

      1. Werewolf says:

        Wasn’t there talk of renaming the team AMG? Might that might make it an additional responsibility and therefore an upwards move?

      2. Kay says:

        +1

        I recall Merc wanted to make it less Merc-related and more AMG-associated, so if the team performs badly it’d be linked to AMG division rather than the main company.

      3. toleman fan says:

        >Lauda is more of an empowered consultant.

        Power without responsibility? ;)

  68. Tombstone says:

    If Hamilton didn’t regret his move he certainly will now.

    I’d be surprised to see him finish his 3 year contract at Mercedes.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mercedes withdraw, from team ownership, by 2016 too.

  69. Werewolf says:

    I don’t think Lauda is the catalyst here. Daimler’s recent acquisition of the Aabar stake indicated a desire for more control and, inevitably, changes. I can imagine a situation where Haug was thought of as the right person to run the company’s other racing interests (DTM, etc) but not F1, hence a mutually agreed departure as this would effectively be demotion.

  70. Guy says:

    Fascinating article James. Both the characters discussed here, however influential, are still outside of the operational and design aspect of Mercedes. The BBC’s Gary Anderson has intimated several times that there are in fact too many heads within that design and operations core as well. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this.

  71. Dmitry says:

    I am still in shock since I heard the news…

    I don’t know what to think, just hope the team won’t crumble on itself because of this mess…

  72. Elie says:

    I could see Michael being a development guy for their road cars like he did at Ferrari- I too was thinking he might be the face / front man for the team but after the last 3 years I’m not sure that would be wise for Mercedes in the short term ( no fault of his), I just hope Hamilton & more importantly Ross Brawn are allowed to work with the great resources they now have in the team. I would have thought Director of Motorsport would be one of the highest ranks in Mercedes AMG group. They definitely need someone very strong from within.. Thanks for your feedback.

  73. I wonder if Lewis knew Haug would be going before he signed ?

  74. Ivan says:

    “…But can they become a winning force in today’s F1? Is it possible for a corporate company like Mercedes to do what Toyota, Honda and BMW all failed to do? Only Renault in recent times has come in and won world titles, but they did it by sticking close to the Benetton model laid out by Flavio Briatore…”

    SPOT ON!

  75. Panagiotis says:

    There are Far too many generals at Mercedes from the board of directors to the drawing board. If they don’t act like soldiers they would eventually stuck in the middle. Farewell Haug, many people would have kill just to be there, nevermind your salary, you just had to be a German motosport journalist you are a hero, you won the lottery for the last 22 years in a row. Haaaa yeah right, Not to forget, Lauda was a great champ… Ross has more championships than all of them put together.

    1. Panagiotis says:

      Apologies Aldo is there too, Ross can’t beat them alone. Just wonder can any team’s top individual personnel championships much those of current Mercedes´s people? Stupid but it just came up!

  76. anon says:

    We can’t judge the decisions made by Merc until the end of 2014, I’m worried they will try and catch up to the top teams in 2013 and as a result their 2014 campaign will be weaker.

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