Wolff to succeed Haug at Mercedes

Toto Wolff, the Williams shareholder who manages Valtteri Bottas and only last July became an executive director, is leaving the Oxfordshire based team.

The mass-circulation German newspaper Bild reports that the 41-year-old Austrian, a former racing driver, is replacing the recently departed Norbert Haug as Mercedes’ motor sport chief.

He has almost certainly been appointed by the marque’s new F1 chairman Niki Lauda, the triple world champion who – like Wolff – is from Vienna, Austria.

As well as owning shares in Williams, Wolff also has a stake in HWA, the German company that runs Mercedes’ DTM programme.

Mercedes would not comment, and neither would Williams. But Bild claimed the news is likely to be announced officially at the DTM test in Valencia, which starts on Tuesday.

Reports estimate the value of Wolff’s Williams shareholding at up to EUR 40 million.


Haug admits Mercedes defeats led to F1 departure

Norbert Haug has admitted he is stepping down due to Mercedes’ lack of success as a works team since 2010. But in an interview with Germany’s Bild daily, he denied reports he is being made a scapegoat.

“No, I’m not,” said Haug, who served as the German marque’s motor sport vice president for more than two decades. “If I had nothing to do with our failures in the last three years, then I would have nothing to do with our victory in China this year,” said the 60-year-old, “and I wouldn’t like that.”

But why has Haug been axed, and not the Brackley based team’s British principal, Ross Brawn?

“Because over 22 years I have borne the overall responsibility for motor sport at Mercedes, not Ross Brawn. I am ultimately his superior,” he insisted.

Haug said he accepts that he must take the responsibility.

“The basis of our car was good, but the development was poor to very poor,” he admitted.

Haug denied rumours he is actually quitting for health reasons.

“Thank god not,” the German insisted. “Almost three years ago to the day I had thyroid surgery, but since then I’m doing very well. I’m totally healthy,” he added.

He said he doesn’t know if his job will now be split into two roles — DTM and F1.

“I have no information. Maybe there is a very capable professional who can do much more than I can,” said Haug.

He played down suggestions ex-drivers like Michael and Ralf Schumacher, or Mika Hakkinen, can fill his shoes.

“Honestly, I don’t think they were born to be in the office,” laughed Haug.


Berger could be candidate to replace Haug?

Gerhard Berger could be a candidate to replace Mercedes-Benz’s departing head of motor sport Norbert Haug.

That is the claim of the Swiss magazine Speed Week, specifically naming the former Ferrari and McLaren driver as potentially in the running for Haug’s job.

Austrian Berger, 54, was BMW’s joint motor sport director last decade, and until 2008 the co-owner of the second Red Bull team, Toro Rosso.

“We will inform you about everything in due course,” a Mercedes spokesman is quoted by the German news agency DPA.


Haug to leave Mercedes

Norbert Haug is leaving his role as Mercedes’ motor sport chief “by mutal agreement” at the end of this month.

A statement issued by the German carmaker said that, after his more than two decades in the role, the 60-year-old’s contract is ending.

“Preparations for the forthcoming season continue as planned,” Thursday’s announcement read.

The statement did not give a reason for Haug’s sudden departure, or who might replace him.

But in late September, triple world champion Niki Lauda joined the board of Mercedes’ Brackley based works F1 team as non-executive chairman.

The great Austrian said recently: “(Team boss) Ross (Brawn) has not been in danger and he never will be. He’s the boss.

“I’m just the head of the supervisory board. I just have to look at everything and ask ‘What are the strengths, what are the weaknesses?'”


Haug doubts Schumacher wants F1 role in 2013

Norbert Haug has played down the possibility Michael Schumacher will return to the paddock next year with a prominent F1 role.

The seven time world champion is returning to retirement after a three-year comeback with Mercedes, but had been tipped for a non-driving role at Mercedes.

“There will be talks after the season,” Mercedes’ motor racing vice-president Haug told SID news agency. “However, I don’t think Michael wants a role in Formula One.

“He loves our brand and we would count ourselves very lucky if Michael would work with us further in the international sphere for Mercedes. There are few sportsmen who are rated as highly as he is, or loved as much. And the roots of his professional career were with Mercedes, just as the end of his active career was as well.

“A further cooperation could not be more authentic,” added Haug.

Meanwhile, Haug denied suggestions Mercedes is ramping up its Formula One budget to coincide with the arrival of Lewis Hamilton in 2013.

“I don’t know where these rumours come from,” said the German. “That was never the plan, and we never have nor never will complain about having too little money.”


Mercedes ready to sign new Concorde

Mercedes parent Daimler has reportedly decided to stay in F1 beyond 2012.

In Singapore this weekend, rumours swirled in the paddock that the Stuttgart manufacturer is on the verge of pulling the plug. That, combined with the dithering over the 2012 Concorde Agreement, could explain the long delay in Lewis Hamilton’s decision about whether to join the so-called ‘Silver Arrows’ in 2013.

German sources had reported that Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche has ordered cost cuts of more than a billion euros in the Mercedes road car division. That ramped up fears that the F1 programme would also get the axe.

Responding to the rumours, Norbert Haug said in Singapore: “I believe we have already established the right balance with regards to the costs (of competing in F1).

“I say that our budget is reasonable while our results are not good enough,” he is quoted by DPA news agency.

Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport now reports that Daimler has decided to definitely keep the Mercedes brand in formula one, meaning the new Concorde could be signed as early as next week.


Mercedes eyes driver ‘contingencies’ for 2013

Norbert Haug has admitted Mercedes is eyeing possible “contingencies”, in the event Michael Schumacher does not race the German team’s 2013 car.

“Of course we have to plan for all contingencies,” said Mercedes’ competition vice-president, amid raging speculation Lewis Hamilton might sensationally switch from McLaren to drive in Schumacher’s place next year.

Haug is quoted by SID news agency as revealing the team is conducting “open and faithful” talks with Schumacher. And when asked about Hamilton, he added: “Lewis grew up with us (Mercedes) and with McLaren. We worked together even when he was 12 years old.

“But it is not possible to conclude from this that the current rumours have any basis.”

An outright denial sounds different. Indeed, Haug acknowledged the speculation.

“As long as seats are available, you have to deal with it. We do not spread the rumours, but we have to live with them,” he said.

The latest rumours were fanned by former team owner and now British television pundit Eddie Jordan, but McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh questioned their credibility.

“I think that any article that includes a sentence that begins ‘Eddie Jordan understands …’ is automatically questionable,” he told the BBC.

But Jordan’s television colleague David Coulthard, a former long-time McLaren driver, said the Irishman has earned more credibility than that.

“EJ has a reputation for being a bit outspoken but he has brokered more driver deals than almost anyone in the sport, has contacts all over the place and is friendly with Lewis’s manager, Simon Fuller,” he wrote in the Telegraph.

“I cannot recall him being wrong when he has stuck his neck out like this. He was right about Michael Schumacher coming back to the sport three years ago, for instance,” Coulthard noted.

So for now, the Hamilton saga is the talk of the Monza paddock.

“He looks so unhappy at McLaren — I think he will go,” an unnamed team principal told the Guardian.

Jenson Button, Hamilton’s teammate at McLaren, thinks the 2008 world champion would be mad to move.

“It wouldn’t hurt me as much as I think it would hurt him,” he said.

But as Coulthard surmised, no one at present really knows if Hamilton is staying or going. And “I’m not sure that he does either,” said the Scot.


Haug: No Schumacher contract announcement at Spa

Norbert Haug has played down expectations Michael Schumacher’s plans beyond the 2012 season will be discussed and decided during the month-long August break.

With the seven time world champion’s three-year ‘comeback’ contract set to expire this year, it might be said the big gap between Sunday’s Hungarian grand prix and F1’s next outing at fabled Spa-Francorchamps in early September is an ideal opportunity for his crucial talks with Mercedes. News of a new deal would also be timely, given Schumacher’s special connection with the Belgian grand prix, and the fact the 2012 event coincides with the triple-century milestone in the 43-year-old’s epic grand prix career.

But Haug, carmaker Mercedes’ motor racing chief, insisted the sport’s fans and media should not be expecting that news at Spa.

“I doubt there will be an announcement at Spa. This is going to take a little bit longer,” he is quoted by SID news agency.

Schumacher made his F1 debut at Spa-Francorchamps in 1991, winning his first of 91 career victories at the same Belgian circuit a year later. He won five other Belgian grands prix (1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2002), which is an outright record.


Haug sure of Nurburgring solution

Norbert Haug says he is confident the Nurburgring can overcome its problems.

Speaking as head of Mercedes’ motor racing programmes, he said the circuit is important not just for the German grand prix but also the touring car championship DTM, which is also contested by the Stuttgart carmaker.

“I don’t think the lights are going out,” he is quoted by Die Welt newspaper. “I am sure that solutions will be found,” said German Haug.

Mark Webber, who earlier this week admitted he is not a big fan of the modern Hockenheim layout, said on Thursday he would be sad to see Germany’s other grand prix venue fall off the calendar.

“Yeah, it’s a sensational little track and obviously you have the big circuit out the back,” said the Australian.

Michael Schumacher joked that F1’s reigning world champion, Sebastian Vettel, might be able to bail out the legendary circuit.

“Your wallet is bigger than mine,” Vettel smiled back.


Haug plays down Vettel-to-Mercedes likelihood

Norbert Haug has indicated that Mercedes is not currently in the running to secure Sebastian Vettel’s services.

Although many believe that Michael Schumacher will remain with the Mercedes team in 2013, there is technically an open seat alongside Nico Rosberg next season – and several drivers have already been linked with a move to the team.

“We will sit down with Michael and make a decision together,” Mercedes’ motor racing director Haug told DPA news agency. “There is no rush.”

Scottish racer Paul di Resta has been named as a possible successor to Schumacher, with Haug confirming that Mercedes will “not necessarily” look to pair Rosberg with another German.

“We are always looking for the best drivers available. That was the case even with Nico and Michael,” he insisted.

But what about Vettel, who is under contract to Red Bull for 2013 but possibly not 2014? Again and again, Ferrari is mentioned as a possible next employer for the reigning double world champion, but what about Germany’s unofficial national team?

When asked how big Mercedes’ interest is in the 25-year-old German, Haug answered: “Not so big that we need to talk about it in the media.”