Mercedes turns the page as Haug leaves “by mutual agreement”
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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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.


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.


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!


“…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…”



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


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.


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…


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


>Lauda is more of an empowered consultant.

Power without responsibility? 😉


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



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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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



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?


Excellent questions. James?


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.


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.


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)?


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


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?


Could they be making room for Herr Schumacher?


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.


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 ?


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.


…her name ….or ?


OOPS…that was weird


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…


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.


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


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


Having second thoughts Lewis ?


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


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

Alan Li from Toronto, Canada

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.


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…..


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.


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.

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