Norbert Haug has dropped hints that there could be 'some surprises' when the driver line-up is revealed for the Mercedes Grand Prix effort in F1 2010 – as he re-affirmed that the Stuttgart manufacturer is very much involved in the sport for the long-term.
It was announced yesterday that Mercedes-Benz has relinquished its 40 per cent share of long-time partner McLaren and purchased a majority 75 per cent stake in F1 2009 World Champions Brawn GP [see separate story – click here
], meaning that from next season onwards, the Brackley-based outfit will officially become known as Mercedes Grand Prix.
That has led to some speculation that there is a plan being put in-place to create an all-German 'super team', with Jenson Button being linked increasingly to McLaren alongside title-winning predecessor and compatriot Lewis Hamilton, to make way, some contend, for highly-rated ex-Williams F1 ace Nico Rosberg and experienced BMW-Sauber refugee Nick Heidfeld.
However, out-of-work 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen is similarly in the frame after being let go by Ferrari in favour of Fernando Alonso, whilst somewhat wilder speculation has linked record-breaking legend Michael Schumacher to a return to the cockpit for one last hurrah behind the wheel of a Silver Arrow [see separate story – click here
]. As he set out Mercedes' vision for the future, the three-pointed star's motorsport vice-president Haug suggested that it would be wise not to make any rash presumptions driver-wise.
“I think we have to be very pleased and satisfied to have announced our new Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix team,” underlined the German, “and the next steps will follow. I have every understanding that all the people in Formula 1 worldwide want to know who the drivers will be now. It's not finally decided, but I think and hope we can announce something in the course of the next couple of weeks. We will do a very good job in that respect as well I can promise you – and maybe we can create some surprises...
“To start a new season with Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix – our own Formula 1 team – is something really special for us. We have much, much better circumstances these days in Formula 1 – teams get more money from the commercial rights-holder and there is a new commercial agreement in-place which limits the spending of the teams, so we will spend much less money than we used to do in the past.
“We always from a Mercedes-Benz side have been very, very efficient in that respect, and we will be even more efficient and bring the costs considerably down. That is the reason for us; I cannot judge what the other manufacturers are doing, but one thing is for sure – Formula 1 is a very, very important platform for us, we are celebrating 75 years of the Silver Arrows this year, we have a great heritage and we want to continue in that direction.”
The 56-year-old went on to discuss the end of the relationship with McLaren – a scenario that had been anticipated for some time following the string of high-profile scandals that have plagued the Woking-based concern of late, from the 2007 'Spygate' saga to Hamilton's Melbourne lies controversy earlier this year. Mercedes will continue as an engine-supplier until at least 2015, and Haug added that he is eagerly awaiting a new on-track rivalry rather than partnership.
“It was quite amicable,” he assured. “The McLaren Group set itself some new targets, especially on the automotive side; we respect that, and we will co-operate in the future. We have had a very, very fruitful co-operation in the past; we have won three drivers' world championships – two times with Mika Hakkinen, one time in 2008 with Lewis Hamilton obviously – we were once constructors' world champions and we were ten times the 'silver medal' winner, being runner-up in both categories.
“This was certainly very successful, and in the last twelve years since our first victory in '97 we have won 60 races, which is quite a good achievement, I would say. We will co-operate in the future as well, but certainly with a different outlook from the beginning of next year. There will definitely be co-operation and friendship away from the racetrack, and we will be rivals on the track – but we will do that in a very sporting manner and respect each other.”
To watch the interview in full, click here