After 22 years as Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, Norbert Haug ends a very successful association with the Stuttgart manufacturer, as he leaves under a mutual agreement at the end of the year, and will be on a “no-compete” gardening leave situation.
One of the most respected characters within motorsport, known for his skills behind the wheel, as the “DriftKonig” in his SL500 during DTM race weekends, and not forgetting his legendary karaoke parties, does not detract from the impact his direction has taken Mercedes-Benz in racing by any means.
Since their first title in the DTM, with Klaus Ludwig taking top honours in 1992, Mercedes have secured 60 percent of the titles in the category, as well as 54 percent of all the races. A pretty dominant era from that moment on, as the former journalist and racer was given the brief to turn things around, and that he was also was very instrumental in the return of the DTM in 2000, as we now know it.
With Ludwig and 5-time DTM champion Bernd Schneider showing a rivalry that did, in many respects, bring the success needed in the early years for Mercedes to start their domination of the series, which continues to this very day. It clearly was the case this year for the ‘Three-Pointed Star,” who narrowly lost out on the drivers’ title, as HWA drivers Gary Paffett and Jamie Green were fighting until the very last race at Hockenheim.
Being given the freedom and trust of the Mercedes-Benz board really helped Haug establish his way of guiding the brand forward in many ways, and not just in the DTM, but also in sportscar and endurance racing, but also was heavily involved with the return of the “Silver Arrows” to Formula One.
Norbert’s legacy in motorsport is one that is full of recognition of what he has achieved, the respect he has gained from his peers, and those that have worked with him, which will stand the test of time over the coming years. 2005 DTM champion and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes test driver Paffett himself stated on Twitter earlier this week, that it was: “Sad to see a man that has done so much for me move on.”
But as a man, who always had time for the fans, his sincerity in his official statement, showed the man behind the determined face we so often see in paddocks around the globe, as his reflections on a successful period with Mercedes: “I would like to thank the best car company in the world for more than 22 years, which never had a single moment without passion for me. I particularly wish to thank the Board for the trust and freedom they have always given me with all my activities.
“Since 1991, we had tremendous achievements and wins, for which I want to thank all of my colleagues. Unfortunately, with one victory in 2012 since founding our own Formula One works team in 2010, we couldn’t fulfill our own expectations. However, we have taken the right steps to be successful in the future. Our team and our drivers will do everything to achieve these goals.”
Irrespective of wherever he ends up after his enforced hiatus, you can be sure that he will work the magic that has served him so well, to generate the desired effect. Whatever he decides to pursue, even if another manufacturer decides to employ him for his impressive track record, he will be missed as the “face” of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, as Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Daimler AG’s CEO stated earlier this week.
But as the DTM outfit prepares for next season, without Haug, Green, Susie Wolff and David Coulthard, will this be a turning point in both the successes and the structure of the Brand’s future, or will there be more surprises in store from Stuttgart? We’ll find out when Mercedes face up against Audi and BMW in Hockenheim for the first race of the 2013 season…