In conversation - Mercedes Michael Schumacher & Norbert Haug 22 May 2011
Talk in the paddock seems to suggest that these are desperate times for Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher. A tricky comeback year in 2010 has turned into an even worse 2011, with the German earning just six points from the opening four races. But while its certainly true things have not gone quite to plan, conversation between the seven-time world champion and Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug is far from troubled. In fact, the dream is still very much alive...
Q: Was the partnership between Schumacher and Mercedes a huge mistake?
Norbert Haug: Why? What kind of question is that?
Q: Because the partnership between the upmarket car manufacturer and the most successful racing driver of all time is not producing any results. Eighth, ninth and 12th places from four races this season cannot possibly be satisfactory
Michael Schumacher: Of course we would have wanted faster development - and a faster swing onto victory lane - after Ross (Brawn) had won both titles in 2009. But that was the exception to the rule. I have been racing long enough to understand that it takes at least three years to push a team to the very top.
NH: Three to five years.
Q: When Michael signed with Mercedes one and a half years ago Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche spoke of a German national team for Formula One which would race for victories and titles
NH: That was, and still is valid. But every attempt to define the timeframe would be dubious. We have built our team around new and revolutionary efficiency parameters, so we - and our millions of fans - still need to be a bit more patient. In the long run I know that we will profit hugely from our ideas and concepts.
MS: and I am sure to finish on the podium this season.
Q: But isnt the fans patience running out? Shouldnt Barcelona be the place to finally cut the knot?
MS: There is no knot that has to be cut. I know that good things come to those who wait. I am absolutely sure we are on the right track and that we are doing all we can to be successful in the end.
Q: Even your team principal Ross Brawn, who sailed with you to seven titles, has said that there is still a small piece missing that would transform you into your old self again. What small piece is he talking about?
MS: Probably last year I wasnt where I wanted to be. But this year I would say nothing is missing. All ingredients for success are here - we now to have arrange and optimize them. Then we will be on the go, just like Red Bull is now. I know that we will do it.
NH: There is enough knowhow in the team and there is no lack of good advice coming from all kinds of bystanders. (Laughs)
MS: Thats true. But I dont read these things. I am aware that there are many out there mouthing off about me, but I have been in the business long enough to know what is really important - to stay calm and work in a goal-oriented way on what we want to achieve.
Q: Isnt time running out?
MS: No, because we are in a good way
NH: and it would be completely counterproductive if we hit each other on the heads instead of sticking them together to find solutions. Wed much rather criticize each other constructively
MS: and bolster each other. If I am driving well, I dont get a text message from Norbert. Only when it doesnt work out so well, then immediately I have a message from him on my mobile! (Laughs)
NH: In one word, its real friendship.
Q: So your friendship hasnt suffered over the last one and a half years?
MS: I can answer that with a definite no. We have both been in Formula One for 20-odd years and have known each other for 25 years. We are both real fighters with a huge amount of F1 experience to know that success is teamwork. In the word together lies the secret to success. So we will stick it out through thick and thin.
NH: You know what friendship is when its getting tough and you still stand by each other. Otherwise friendship is just a word.
MS: Ive gone through this before with Ferrari and in tough times we got strong together. Thats when you know if the friendship is more than skin deep.
Q: Whose celebrations are better - Ferraris or Mercedes?
MS: (Laughing) I hope we will find out soon. I am really interested to draw a comparison.
NH: Ferrari celebrates very nicely. Michael and Ferrari very often invited me when they were celebrating a victory. I remember some wonderful stories
Q: Can you come up with a story together?
MS: I could fill a whole book with stories, but some wouldnt be entirely family-rated!
NH: I promise that we will make a really good story happen at our first victory party, so be patient and stay tuned.
Q: Hopefully we wont have to be patient for too long
MS: In reality everything happens so quickly in Formula One. If I have a good race here, who cares about Turkey two weeks ago? You have to free your mind and not ponder what might have been. It is useless to look back. You have to concentrate all your energy on your goals.
Q: Formula One group CEO Bernie Ecclestone would love to see you back in a position where you were able to fight for wins with Sebastian Vettel
MS: Believe me, I would too! (Laughs)
Q: How long will the Mercedes/Michael Schumacher partnership last?
NH: A very long time. In 1993 we had the chance to sign him with Sauber, as he was one of our successful Mercedes-Junior drivers. But Michael was too good for us at that time. Only two years later he won the world championship with Benetton and moved to Ferrari in 1996. But it was always in the back of our minds to work together one day.
MS: So lets all look ahead. I have found my way back home to Mercedes, where it all started for me. Now we want to work together and build something fundamental. Mercedes played a major role in getting me into Formula One and I want to pay back as much as I can. The best way would be with victories.
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