Norbert Haug and Mercedes Benz have announced the end of a 22-year partnership. Haug, a former writer and racer, helped Mercedes win multiple titles and bring the fabled Silver Arrows back to Formula One.
German car giant Mercedes and its motorsports boss Norbert Haug announced on Thursday that they would part company at the end of the year, after over two decades together.
The 60-year-old from Mercedes' home state of Baden Württemberg oversaw the piecemeal return of the Mercedes marque to Formula One, widely recognized as the highest echelon of racing. During Haug's tenure, Mercedes-powered cars won 87 F1 grands prix and six championships - along with numerous successes in other race series.
"I want to say thank you for more than 22 years with the best car company in the world," Haug said in a joint statement. "This time never provided me with a single second devoid of passion."
Haug also explicitly thanked the Mercedes board for the "trust and freedom" they bestowed upon him as motor sports director.
The CEO of Mercedes' parent company Daimler, Dieter Zetsche, returned the compliments.
"For more than 20 years, Norbert Haug was the face of the Mercedes-Benz presence in motor sport," Zetsche said. "For me, he put his stamp on an entire era, and, as a highlight, he was responsible for the successful comeback of the Silver Arrows to Formula One."
Completing the comeback
After 16 successful years as an engine supplier, Mercedes's Silver Arrows, or Silberpfeile, returned to the F1 grid in 2010 after decades away. The company purchased the Brackley-based Brawn team, and in a spectacular coup, reunited pit lane mastermind Ross Brawn with seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher.
Schumacher is also leaving Mercedes this season after a three-year comeback to the sport. He will be replaced by Lewis Hamilton, who Haug directly helped to a world championship in 2008 at the wheel of a Mercedes-powered McLaren.
Haug said the comparatively poor form of the Mercedes team in the past three seasons, with Schumacher's German team mate Nico Rosberg securing one solitary win for the team in China this past season, was his only regret.
"Unfortunately, with one victory in 2012 since founding our own Formula 1 works team in 2010, we couldn't meet our own expectations. However, we have taken the right steps to be successful in the future," Haug said.
Haug helped Mika Häkkinen to two F1 world titles, and later gave his favorite Finn another run in the DTM series
Haug has spent the majority of his adult life in and around the pit lane. He rose in the ranks to deputy chief editor of the specialist magazine Auto, Motor und Sport, specializing in motorsports coverage - all while pursing a by no means unsuccessful career in the cockpit. Haug finished second at Germany's iconic endurance race, the 24 hours of the Nürburgring Nordschleife, as well as privately testing a Williams F1 car - one of the best of the era - in 1986.
He forged close friendships with legendary champions like Niki Lauda - now a Mercedes consultant - and Keke Rosberg, whose son Nico will suit up for the Silver Arrows again next season. His journalistic roots meant Haug was known, particularly among the German press, as a witty, eloquent interview - and occasionally a sharp-eyed critic. The 60-year-old has not yet announced whether he has further plans in the paddock.