Q&A with Merc boss Haug on new Hamilton success
Eurosport conducted a question-and-answer session with Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug ahead of McLaren's 2009 season.
Eurosport: Are you well-prepared for the new season with your drivers Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen?
Norbert Haug: We've a very ambitious timetable and I think everything is going according to plan. The first tests were mostly on a wet track in Portugal. In dry conditions the material is wearing out much faster, but we've learned many things about the new car.
ES: Did Ron Dennis inform you of his retirement plans before he announced them?
NH: Every year there are many surprises in Formula One. It is very important to minimize such things in your own team: that's our rule, and our goal.
ES: Do you think Martin Whitmarsh is the right man for the job?
NH: One man alone can't push the whole team on top. Martin knows that and he's a very professional team-player. Most of the important things we'll decide on together. I have worked for 14 years with Ron and Martin and it's a close and coordinated relationship: everybody knows everybody. That's a very pleasant fact and very economic.
ES: Formula One has to cut back drastically on funding, while there are many new rules. Is that an advantage for the big teams or the small ones?
NH: The most intelligent suggestions came from FOTA. The new rules from the FIA for 2009 will cost a good deal of money, but it is nearly the same as in 2006 with the new V8-engine. There'll be no big advantage for any team.
ES: Which new rules make the most sense?
NH: The new self-restriction from FOTA makes sense, inclusive the new testing rules. And to save money is still one of the big goals of McLaren-Mercedes. If we had a wish, we would like to reduce spending further in F1; however every Euro we've spent on the car in the last year was the right decision. McLaren was the most popular team on international TV and no one enjoyed better results in polls than Lewis Hamilton and our team. We would like to cut spending by more than 50 per cent. but at the same time we would like to push Formula One to make it much more attractive.
ES: Do you think there will be more teams leaving Formula One after Honda?
NH: No. At the moment there are no more details. But I think that all the teams with big budgets and little success have to look at their situations: that's a general rule in business, not only in Formula One.
ES: What do you think about the future? Will F1 continue to rank as the most glamorous motorsport?
NH: Formula One will be the number one discipline in motorsport, for sure. You can watch it in more than 200 countries worldwide and there are more than 600 million viewers. That is unique in the world of sport: only the Olympic Games and the football World Cup do better, and they are only every four years. Formula One will be on every two weeks, from March till November.
ES: Can Lewis Hamilton win the title in 2009?
NH: We've the same recipe for success as last year in place. I can't promise anything, but I can say that we'll try our best in terms of effort and commitment. We are focused on the most important things