The departure of 22-year veteran Norbert Haug as Mercedes motor sport boss was something we considered a possibility when the Niki Lauda arrived at the board level to iron out the contract negotiations between Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone as well as hire Lewis Hamilton away from McLaren.
If you’re keeping score, that’s quite an accomplishment in such a short time frame and it gave us reason for pause as to what Mercedes, conventionally considered top-heavy, would do with Nick Fry and Norbert Haug. Both men are long-time motor sport folks and terrific at what they do but the answer came this week with the exit of Haug.
According to Haug, we were wrong in our assumption that Lauda’s appointment and impact on the team had anything to do with the parting of ways as he told Die Welt:
“I would again like to clarify strongly it was a decision that the board and I have taken unanimously and jointly,” he told Die Welt newspaper.
“Niki had absolutely nothing to do with it.
“We accept and respect each other over the years, and this will not change anything.”
Mercedes progressively got worse over their three years in the sport and perhaps that had as much to do with the decision as anything else. Even Lauda seemed perplexed telling Sky Sports:
“I’m very sorry about that. I have always had a good relationship with him and for me it would be great to work with him in future time.
“After the shock we have no idea how to fix the problem. Absolutely, Norbert will be missed in the team.”
Regardless, you would expect some type of spin to be placed on the situation and I can’t help but think that Lauda did play a factor in the separation as Niki has proven to the board to be very effective in his short tenure.
Haug hired Schumacher and Brawn and the team has slowly digressed. Lauda arranged for Merc to be in a strategic position similar to Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull within the new Concorde Agreement and also poached Lewis Hamilton away from McLaren.
No matter the reasons, I’ll miss Norbert in the F1 paddock and who’s to say he’s not willing to look at other options? I would submit that he would be a big asset to some of the teams on the grid.