There is mounting speculation that rookie driver Lewis Hamilton may claim his first F1 win at Monaco this weekend. However, Mercedes-Benz boss Norbert Haug is not convinced, believing that it is too much to expect, too soon.
“I hope before long he wins a race, but I think it is not right to describe him as the big favourite for Monaco,” Haug explained. “That is not correct for me. He has been exceptional already to be second, three times in a row. Whatever the outcome at Monaco, we will support him.
“He has had fantastic races there in the past. He is a street racer – he likes those types of tracks, but now, the focus is maybe on him too much.”
Hamilton himself has been forthcoming about his ambitions, saying he is aiming to win on the streets of Monte Carlo. However, Haug says his team are keeping their hopes and ambitions in check as they are expecting strong opposition.
“There are lots of goof cars around and we should be in shape,” Haug continued. “But having said that, Ferrari are slightly faster and hopefully we can apply pressure. In the last few years we have won more races than anyone else at Monaco and Ferrari haven’t been too happy there and were not too successful. But I can see at least either to ten cars that can be surprisingly quick there.
“Some of them will not be so much of a surprise because we can expect them to be quick – guys like David Coulthard and Mark Webber in the Red Bulls can be strong here; Williams are traditionally good there; Alex Wurz, when he was testing for us there, he put in a really good performance; BMW will be very quick. So there are a lot of cars that can be very competitive in Monaco. It’s completely open!”
Haug has admitted he is surprised at the level of interest surrounding his rookie driver and he believes that team boss Ron Dennis should be taking a lot of the credit as he has supported Hamilton throughout his career – from karting, right through to Formula 1.
“I can understand the enthusiasm in England,” Haug explained. “But now everyone only speaks about Lewis. Former race drivers, whoever, all saying ‘I knew he was a star’. But the reality is, without Ron and the system, he would be in a different place. He probably would have made it, but maybe he would not. The reality is that they guys who really are close to him speak the least, and that is correct.”
With the media focus aimed mainly at the younger of the two McLaren drivers, many have speculated that Alonso is getting frustrated at his lack of newspaper coverage. However, Haug does not believe the newspaper attention is upsetting Alonso.
“Fernando is not disappointed,” he stated. “If he would have know when he came to us that after four races he would be two points behind the leader and we are leading the constructor’s championship, he would be happy.