It would be 'bizarre' for McLaren-Mercedes to contemplate trying to defend its hard-fought Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship crown in 2009 given its current plight – that is the assertion of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug.
The multiple world championship-winning, Woking-based concern has notched up a scant 13 points thus far this campaign courtesy of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen – less than a sixth of surprise early-season pace-setters Brawn GP. This time twelve months ago, by stark contrast, it boasted 53.
Aside from Hamilton's encouraging and competitive fourth position at the chequered flag in the Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir, highlights have been few-and-far between, with the British star's disqualification in Australia, lapped ninth place in Spain and qualifying crash that relegated him to the rear of the grid in Monaco last time out far more representative of a torrid beginning to proceedings this year, in which the MP4-24 has proven to be some way off the pace, particularly around high-speed circuits.
Whilst Haug suggests that McLaren will ultimately be capable of regaining its rank as one of the top flight's front-running outfits and will be able to challenge for victory again 'when the catch-up process is completed', the German has refused to put a timescale on the team's fight back, and conceded that all hopes of glory in 2009 are now over.
“It would be bizarre to speak of defending our title,” he acknowledged. “Why should we think about it when we are not competitive?”
The 56-year-old did, however, speak about the ongoing uncertainty regarding F1's regulations for 2010 and beyond in the wake of the FIA-FOTA budget cap war, admitting that he hoped a satisfactory compromise would eventually be struck – insisting 'we can only talk about an agreement when everything has been settled' – whilst expressing his fears that some of the potential newcomers for next season may not be up to the required standard.
He was also adamant that Mercedes – which presently supplies customer powerplants to Brawn and Force India – is not willing to help out rival teams at any cost, contending: “Formula 1 is not a charity – this must be clear.”