In the face of mounting criticism of record-breaking multiple F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher's off-colour grand prix comeback this year, Norbert Haug has again backed Mercedes' star driver and contends that the German legend and young compatriot Nico Rosberg together constitute the ideal line-up for 2011.
Schumacher's return has been widely panned for having failed to come even close to living up to expectations, with not so much as a single podium finish from the opening ten outings of the season for by some margin the most successful driver in the sport's long history – whilst Rosberg has notched up three – and a distinctly unflattering two-eight qualifying deficit to his countryman into the bargain.
At 41 now and following three years away from the cut-and-thrust of top flight competition, the cynics argue, 'Schumi' has lost his edge and is no longer the ruthlessly fierce competitor and rival that he once was, replaced rather by a driver who is palpably a softer touch in battle – and not even all that quick anymore, either.
There is increasing speculation that the Kerpen native will elect to save himself any further embarrassment or damage to his illustrious reputation by calling it quits again two seasons early at the end of the current campaign, but the man himself is adamant that he will not only stay on, but indeed fight for an incredible eighth crown in 2011 – and Haug agrees, stressing that it has been machinery rather than man to blame for the Brackley-based outfit's disappointing performances in 2010 thus far.
“For the rest of the year, Michael will concentrate on achieving the absolute best results, and next year he will go for the title,” the Mercedes Benz Motorsport Vice-President told Kicker
magazine. “I would like no other line-up than Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.
“I find it unnecessary to defend a seven-time world champion. On the other hand I also understand the discussion, but the answer to the question as to whether Michael still has it, is quite clearly 'yes'.”
In the meantime, Haug conceded that the goal for this weekend's upcoming German Grand Prix at Hockenheim – the three-pointed star's home race – has to be another rostrum to add to that achieved by Rosberg in the British Grand Prix last time out.
“The German Grand Prix at Hockenheim is a classic for Mercedes-Benz, and with particular pleasure we remember the last race in 2008 when Lewis Hamilton won in a McLaren-Mercedes,” the 57-year-old recalled. “Now, two years later, we will race at home for the first time with our new Silver Arrows works team.
“We cannot assume to repeat our victory from the last Hockenheim race, however we want to present our new team in the best possible way. Nico achieved this at Silverstone when he came home in third place for a podium finish, and it would be nice to repeat such a result at the Mercedes-Benz home race.
“At Hockenheim, we will have many fans who will keep their fingers crossed for Michael, Nico and the Silver Arrows – the 6,500 tickets in the Mercedes-Benz grandstand have never sold out quicker than this year!”