Mercedes motorsport legend Norbert Haug knows a thing or two about Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg having developed them both all the way into Formula 1.
As Hollywood gets into motorsport movie-making mode, Haug reckons that the feud between the two – from their early teens in karting oblivion to the centre stage of the Formula 1 world – is the stuff writers or directors would never dream of.
For 22 years Haug was Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport until he quit in 2012. During that period he engineered the manufacturer’s return to Formula 1 in 1993 with Sauber after a four-decade absence.
The rest is well-documented history. On his journey, Haug was instrumental in the careers of Hamilton and Rosberg. Both backed by the three-pointed star in their junior careers and, of course, through to Formula 1 where both became world champions.
Speaking on Servus TV, Haug said, “They were rivals in karting and that later the two drove later in Formula 1 for the world championship title, you wouldn’t believe it even if it were a Hollywood movie.”
While both drivers acknowledge they were friends in their early years right through to Formula 1 until they became teammates at Mercedes in 2013, upon which the feud ignited and raged until that final night in Abu Dhabi when Rosberg famously claimed the title and promptly retired.
Civil war at Mercedes between Hamilton and Rosberg
The ‘civil war’ had to be managed by Toto Wolff whose nerves and resolve were tested to the maximum as were those of the Mercedes team in general. According to insiders at times the ambience was “toxic” in the pit garage as the feuding drivers outright ignored one another.
Tapping into his vast experience as a motorsport boss, Haug gave insight into how to handle drivers at that level, “If you don’t get into the mind of the person you are talking to, you can say whatever you want. It won’t be heard.”
“The boss who thinks there is a remote driven racing driver will never have a world champion in his team. To keep the reins loose and to challenge the person in front of you with respect to wake up the hunger for success, that’s his recipe for success.”
“However, the perfect team boss also needs to set boundaries, he’s gotta tell him what the limits are, how to treat one another and how to act as a team player. This is not a difficult task with an intelligent driver.”
“It’s trickier to build a suitable car and to implement the right strategy. The fact that new talents will always come into Formula 1, doesn’t change much: young racing drivers aged 16 or 17 are very mature these days. At least, when it comes to their job,” added Haug.