Exclusive Q&A with Mercedes' Norbert Haug 06 Jun 2007
With all the drama of Monaco behind them, McLaren are currently in the enviable position of leading both the drivers and the constructors championships. Can the team maintain their dominance during the North American leg of the season or will Ferrari close the gap? Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice President, Norbert Haug discusses the forthcoming flyaway races, the Monte Carlo controversy and Lewis Hamiltons adjustment to life as a Formula One driver
Q: From hero to zero in one afternoon - how was the emotional situation within the team after the FIA started its investigation in Monaco?
Norbert Haug: We were and are completely comfortable with the FIAs investigation, as the FIA has always to do its job. All team decisions taken both before and during the race were completely in compliance with the international sporting code and for this reason our one-two victory was never in question.
Q: Would you have understood any ruling other than the clearance of the one-two victory?
NH: Of course not.
Q: Before the Monaco race, Ferrari president Luca di Montezelomo reportedly called the current points system unfair, as it does not properly reward winning. McLaren gave a clear answer to this with the result in Monte Carlo but the issue looks set to continue to rumble under the surface of this years championship
NH: I think it does not make a lot of sense to criticise the current point-scoring system if you are not working on putting a different solution through.
Q: Lewis Hamilton seems to have defied the old saying that no man is a born master of his craft. McLaren signed the world champion and expected Hamilton to develop gradually into an equal partner. However, it seems that the rookie has skipped the development phase. Was everybody in the team ready for Hamiltons confident performances?
NH: Lewis is a great talent and both McLaren and Mercedes invested in his career. Ron (Dennis) gave him his first chance and both Ron and Martin (Whitmarsh) have supported Lewis ever since. He definitely learnt a lot during his Formula 3 years in Germany and in his GP2 season in 2006.
Q: How do you protect Hamilton from the growing interest in him?
NH: Lewis has been supported by McLaren and Mercedes-Benz for nine years now and has been a part of our motorsport family for a long time. He is strong and has learnt a lot - he can handle the pressure that is on him.
Q: How is Fernando Alonso coping with the fact that his biggest competition is his less-experienced team mate?
NH: Fernando has not only chosen a new challenge with a new team, but also with a new team mate. The competition between our two drivers is a positive one as they respect each other. This competition is also fruitful for the whole team and provides interesting battles for the spectators. We would much rather have this situation than one in which one driver was miles away from the other.
Q: In Monaco the speed gap was to your advantage but it is a very special circuit. Do you think we will see more of the same in Montreal and Indianapolis?
NH: Montreal and Indianapolis are completely different to Monaco. Instead of maximum-aero downforce as in Monaco, everybody will run on low-downforce settings; instead of slow turns we will see fast corners, instead of short straights, there are long ones. We are well prepared for these races, but it is always better to deliver a decent result on the race track rather than making predictions.
Q: The two days of testing at Paul Ricard with the Montreal layout saw the Ferraris in the lead by over half a second. Will there be an upgraded MP4-22 at the two flyaway races?
NH: During the test, which was held one and a half weeks before Monaco, our team completed an intensive test at the Paul Ricard circuits long version to prepare for this race. We will have some updates on the car for Montreal.