Norbert Haug has claimed that the most important factor in McLaren-Mercedes' Formula 1 fightback is self-belief, as he refused to accept that the multiple world champions are down and out in 2009 – suggesting that hard work and confidence are worth a tenth of a second as the team bids to drag itself back up the starting grid once more.
McLaren has notched up a scant 13 points thus far this season – compared to 42 at the same stage twelve months ago – with no finish better than fourth place for reigning F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton and an abject and thankless run to ninth at the chequered flag for the young British star last time out in Barcelona, around a circuit that was always going to expose the inherent weaknesses of the aerodynamically-poor MP4-24.
The blame for the dramatic slump – similar to that of fellow expected title contenders Ferrari and BMW-Sauber – has been pinned on having had to battle for glory right up until the end of the 2008 campaign, when rivals had long since begun development on their 2009 challengers, according to a significantly different set of regulations.
What's more, the Woking-based outfit has had its reputation sullied by the unsavoury Melbourne 'lies' controversy, and as such is now having to re-establish its standing both on and off the track. Haug is adamant that the team will only successfully regain winning form if it believes
it can regain winning form.
“I think you have to believe that [the championship is still possible] all the time,” insisted the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President, “but it makes no sense to make predictions. You are always working in the same direction to improve the car, to improve the whole package and a lot of surprises have happened in the past in Formula 1.
“This is a very special formula, and when you have 15 cars within seven tenths of a second, lots of things can happen. You look quite silly being 15th or 16th and gaining three, four [or] five tenths is difficult enough, but it's easier than gaining 1.5 seconds. If you gain three, four [or] five tenths you are probably sixth or seventh and then if you have an aggressive strategy all of a sudden it plays into your hands.
“If you are not convinced, sometimes you probably need to have positive dreams and believe in them. I think it just makes no sense to sit down and say 'well, I have no chance anymore.' I am not sitting here and saying we are going to win the world championship – that does not give us a tenth of a second – but it does give us a tenth of a second if we are working hard, if we are believing in ourselves, if we are supporting the people.
“There is obviously criticism within the team but it is very, very important that it is positive criticism and that we are steering things in the right direction. We didn't win one race in 2006, for example, in 2007 we missed the championship by one point and in 2008 we won the championship, so things can turn around quickly. You need to have the substance, you need to believe in yourself and you need to not be arrogant – that does not help. You need to work very, very hard and this is what we are doing.
“Of course we are very much focussed on getting the job done with McLaren. We are a 40 per cent shareholder – the biggest shareholder in the group. Lots of people still think it is only a partnership, but we are in the middle of it, so it is important for us to come back to where we used to be in the last couple of years. We are working very hard, but it is a question of time.