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Norbert Haug Dismisses Rumors About Schumi and Brawn

Michael Schumacher and Norbert Haug

Rumors have been swirling around the Mercedes camp, at least since Monza, that the Silver Arrows squad is in disarray.  Specifically, it’s been alleged that former team owner (for a season) and current team principal Ross Brawn is at odds with the Mercedes mother ship, and its key ambassador Norbert Haug.

Some rumors have postulated that Michael Schumacher would retire (again) from the cockpit next year, and either assume a joint leadership role with Brawn, or simply step into Brawn’s shoes.  While it’s plausible that the Mercedes brass has been disappointed with Schumi’s comeback performance, it’s more of a challenge to accept the notion that Schumi is line to replace his longtime mentor.

Leaving aside the fact that Schumacher has no official team management experience (although he was sometimes regarded as a driver-manager at Ferrari), one should remember that he turned down virtually the same job at Ferrari when Jean Todt left the team.  Luca di Montezemolo has said publicly that he offered Schumi Todt’s old job.  The plan was that Schumi would understudy Todt for a year, and then the diminutive Frenchman would move on.

But Schumacher turned the offer down without hesitation.  He said he’d rather be spending long hours in the cockpit than at a desk.  Is there any reason to suppose that he’s changed his attitude in that respect?  After all, the primary reason he came out of retirement was that he missed driving.  Being a highly-paid poster boy for Ferrari road cars was a bore.

Current rumors suggest that Ross Brawn has different ideas about the future direction of the team than the Mercedes brass does.  Brawn has already committed the team’s resources to the 2011 car, so if there’s a difference of opinion, one might speculate that the Mercedes board are disappointed that Brawn decided to show the white flag so soon this year.  But Brawn has been the mastermind behind eight world titles (seven with Schumacher, and one with Jenson Button), so one suspects he knows what he’s doing.  Mercedes would be foolish if they edged him out.

Another rumor suggests that both Brawn and Schumacher are on the bubble.  This would seem to be the height of absurdity, if true.  The Brawn-Schumacher pairing has been the most successful tech director-driver pairing in the history of the sport, and Mercedes would be challenged to find suitable replacements.  While it might be true that Schumacher has lost a bit of his old edge, his experience in the development of the car going forward should be invaluable.

Likewise, it was Brawn who rescued the old Honda team from the ashes and turned it into a championship contender in 2009.  Brawn has more successes under his belt than he does failures.  Mercedes have sunk a chunk of change into the acquisition of their new team.  Now that the money has been spent, they should be patient and see how developments play out.

It should be said that Mercedes motorsport director Norbert Haug has done his best to put the kibosh on all the rumors, and Haug, unlike certain other team execs, tends to say what he means.  In this case, he recently told the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat, “We have full confidence in Ross.  Work for the future is going well. It is normal that rumours come and go. I’ve heard rumours about Michael, about me and about Ross. When I say no, I mean no, and when I say yes, I mean yes. My answer is no; there are no cracks in the relationship.”

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