For over 22 years Norbert Haug was the uber-motorsport boss of Mercedes including all their race programmes from DTM, GT racing through to Formula 1, but late last year he resigned his position as the new cabal headed by Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda was given the reigns of the Silver Arrows programme.
Haug was out. Now, half a year later the familiar figure was back in the Formula 1 paddock at Nurburgring, his first visit to a grand prix since departing his position as motorsport boss.
He reflected briefly on his long career and spoke about his current situation.
What have you been doing since you left?
Skiing in Austria and then at home. I was relaxing
Did you feel heartbroken not to be there in person on the first GP of the season 2013 in Melbourne?
No. After 22 years that I was at Mercedes responsible for the whole program . Now it is something different. I have more time for me and for my friends. Everything is under control. All this travelling for so many years and now it is a new challenge and it is very very good. I was not at a grand prix since Brazil 2012. As I arrived everyone was cheering and saying hello. You need to be a sportsman and respect your competitors. I have nothing to complain about. Now it is a new challenge. And new challenges are good.
Do you see changes in the paddock since you left?
Not so much. Just the tyre situation was an issue. But everyone reacted well and unanimously. It looks good and safe now.
Norbert do you have plans to work in racing and help smaller teams?
I said (in Bild Zeitung) that maybe I could help a small GT team.: It is only a general idea. I have no current contacts whatsoever and no plans in F1. It is just a a general idea. I do not know exactly what I will do. Time will tell.
Are you happy for the Mercedes team result this year [or] heart-broken to have [only] been watching on TV?
Of course it is a bit difficult if you win Monaco and you are not on site. But generally I have absolutely no problems not being there. I am a happy person and happy for the team. The team and Silver Arrows are fighting at the top. After the building up time it is great. It was long and such a tough time. I am happy for the team. I know Lewis since he was 12 years old. I know Nico a very long time too. I knew his team well since the McLaren kart times. I helped them, financed them and of course I am happy the way things look for them. I am pleased. I am a lucky guy. Six times winning Monaco or whatever. It would be a bad feeling if the team would go backwards. The results show that we have taken the right decisions in the past.
What do you fear?
That there are only eight good cars in the championship and a good healthy championship needs that 22 cars[that] are healthy. Not only eight. You have to keep that in mind.
Do you have any criticisms?
I do not make any criticisms. If you see the races they go in the right direction. Of course we need to see some more races. At Mercedes, we were a very small team at the beginning. We were fighting for the results. We brought the team size up to 300. We brought the people in the right direction. There is expertise in the team. My plan was to have success with Michael and Nico. But the car was not good enough at the time. The car last year was not what it should have been . A pity for me. But that is how it is.
What’s your take on the current state of finances in F1?
It was always the case as it is now. It did not change so much. I am an outsider now. I am not Mr Smart who knows everything. I love F1 – I love the sport. I know lots of people. I know the mechanics. But if they do not get their paychecks at the end of the month it is not fair for them.
Looking back at your career what were your best moments?
The best moments… there have been so many…that when we had accidents where nothing severe happened: Like Mika Hakkinen at McLaren or our Le Mans accident. I would have been devastated, depressed and shocked if someone would have been hurt or killed. 80 wins in F1 and six world championships and now the silver arrows are in the right direction. GT 1997, 98 we won almost everything. So many good moments.
Is there anything you’d rather forget?
You cannot choose…No, I am a happy guy. I have always been a very happy manager. I have no bad memories. Of course I suffered a lot last year. If in the best case you can qualify only 12th of course it is a bit frustrating. But you learn always from the problems. You need to be strong and recover. If you cannot stand it, you cannot make it.
Plans for summer vacations?
I have no definite plans. I can be quite spontaneous. I have plans to go to Austria. I have many friends there.
Plans to come back and visit us at GPs?
No real plans as I am flexible – I used to do 150 days travelling -150 days in the office. It was a lot…but maybe I will not work over 300 days as I did before! (Agnes Carlier)
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