Report – Mercedes’ Lauda to return to aviation

Having recently stepped down at Air Berlin, it is rumoured Niki Lauda could be looking to return to the world of aviation.

As he became a shareholder and the chairman at Mercedes’ works team, the famous Austrian stepped down from an existing management position at Air Berlin.

The business newspaper Handelsblatt speculated last month that Lauda “wants to dedicate his future to his role in formula one”.

But the Austrian daily Der Standard is now reporting that Alitalia, Italy’s struggling national airline, has targeted former triple world champion Lauda for the role of managing director.

“We do not comment on these media indiscretions,” an Alitalia spokesperson told the APA news agency.

And Lauda told Die Presse newspaper: “I’ve heard the rumours but no one has spoken to me — not even the journalists who peddle the story.”

Source:GMM

Lauda: Mercedes ‘in group of teams’ behind Red Bull

According to Niki Lauda, Mercedes has taken “an important step forwards” since the end of the 2012 season.

“We’re not looking at wins at the moment,” Briton Hamilton, who has moved from McLaren over the winter, said after testing the new W04 late last week in Barcelona. “As I’ve said, we’re hoping to be fighting in the top ten.”

Most insiders believe Hamilton’s caution lies somewhere between pessimism and reality. Triple world champion Lauda, at least, sounds more confident.

“I don’t mean that we are better than Red Bull,” he told Brazil’s O Estado de S.Paulo. “It seems they again have the fastest car. But we have taken an important step forwards compared to last year,” added Lauda.

“Our car was born well, with no chronic problems, and with great potential to develop it, which is what we’re doing.

“I think we have put ourselves in the group with McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus,” he said. “The differences between us are very small, as is the difference between the group (of chasing teams) and Red Bull.”

Lauda thinks Hamilton is preparing to over-deliver on his expectations for his first season with Mercedes.

“I believe Lewis saw the challenge to win with Mercedes as great, but probably less now than what he (first) imagined,” said the famous red cap-wearing Austrian.

Source:GMM

Lauda: Vettel’s Red Bull contract ‘long term’

Sebastian Vettel is locked into a “long term” contract with Red Bull, according to Niki Lauda.

Triple world champion Lauda, now the Mercedes team’s chairman, revealed he is aware of the precise term of the reigning world champion’s current deal.

“I know Sebastian’s contract with Red Bull and it’s long term,” the famous Austrian told Italian television Griglia di Partenza. “That’s why we didn’t try to take him under contract at Mercedes,” added Lauda.

At the same time, Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport daily that Vettel is committed until the end of 2014.

“Anything else was never in question,” said the billionaire.

But what about 2015 and beyond? Would Red Bull consider signing Fernando Alonso, should German Vettel be wooed to Ferrari, who have ruled out putting the two together?

“If he (Alonso) is still racing, then why not?” Mateschitz said.

The publicity-shy Mateschitz also steered away from right-hand man Marko’s recent criticism of Mark Webber, saying one of Red Bull’s strengths has been its “perfect drivers”.

“Webber is both a strong and charismatic character and an exceptional driver,” he insisted.

Mateschitz, however, acknowledged that many in formula one would like to see Red Bull finally beaten in 2013.

“It’s an understandable desire, but it’s also understandable that we are going to try to prevent it,” he said.

Mateschitz said “sports” like formula one will “always be an important part” of the energy drink Red Bull’s budget, and is not ruling out entering the world of two wheels.

“MotoGP is a fantastic sport that has always fascinating me,” he said, admitting a foray for Red Bull is “certainly conceivable”.

Source:GMM

Lauda: Red Bull ‘best’ after Jerez test

Felipe Massa, who clocked the fastest overall time at last week’s Jerez test, has declared the Ferrari F138 “better” than its predecessor.

“It’s more consistent, better in braking, in and out of the corners and easier to understand,” he is quoted by Brazil’s O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

The Italian team’s experienced new test driver Pedro de la Rosa, who tried the 2013 car on Friday, agreed: “The car is well balanced and responds well to changes.”

He told AS newspaper: “There are no problems, but until the end of the Barcelona tests it’s absurd to draw any further conclusions.”

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo told Italy’s Sky Sport 24 that the F138 is “in line with what we expected”.

“But the one we are testing is different to the car that will start the season,” he added.

Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen was fastest as the Jerez test concluded on Friday.

But Niki Lauda – F1 legend, German-language commentator and new Mercedes chairman – thinks Red Bull has “the best” car after the first week of pre-season running.

“After that I see a group with McLaren, Lotus, Ferrari and us (Mercedes),” the triple world champion said.

Jo Ramirez, the former long-time McLaren team manager now involved with countryman Sergio Perez, agreed: “Red Bull, McLaren and Lotus are fast and consistent.

“Ferrari is next and then Mercedes, but the differences are small. It will be another hotly contested championship.”

Source:GMM

Lauda: Mercedes can fight top three in 2013

Sebastian Vettel is the best, but Mercedes can be a top-three contender in 2013.

That is the claim of Niki Lauda, the triple world champion who is also the straight-talking expert pundit for German television RTL.

But he is also now Mercedes’ 10 per cent shareholder and board chairman, and despite an up-and-down Jerez debut for the new Brackley-built W04, Lauda sounded optimistic about the future.

“My big joy is that the Mercedes can now compete with the top three teams,” he told Bild newspaper.

But Lauda acknowledged that world champion Vettel, who drives for Red Bull, is still in front.

Asked to assess the opening four test days of the 2013 pre-season, he said: “The cars are relatively close together.

“In my judgement Vettel is the fastest at the moment. The car works well; looks reliable, and right now he is a bit faster than the rest.”

Meanwhile, Lauda dismissed the plight of F1’s struggling smallest teams, who are complaining that the financial situation is putting their survival at risk.

“Anyone who comes into formula one – the highest class – chooses to,” said the outspoken Austrian.

“So I have no pity when a team gets into financial problems. I don’t know what everyone’s getting excited about.

“The Spanish team (HRT) just did everything wrong they could do wrong. They were poorly organised and had a bad car.

“It’s right that if you do a good job, you earn more money. Simple as that.

“Now and again, over the past 30 or 40 years, formula one has had financial problems, and just like before it will settle down again,” added Lauda.

Lauda and Wolff buy into Mercedes team

Mercedes on Monday announced that Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff are buying into the Brackley based F1 team.

It had already emerged that Wolff, who like Mercedes’ F1 chairman Lauda is from Vienna, is leaving Williams, despite becoming executive director only last July.

But Grove based Williams said on Monday that Wolff, whilst leaving the famous British team, “will retain his shareholding”.

“Positions such as the one offered to him by Mercedes do not come around often,” Sir Frank Williams said.

“Toto has a long history with them and I certainly was not going to stand in the way of him accepting this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

As well as continuing to co-own Williams, 41-year-old Wolff will “acquire a significant minority interest” in Mercedes’ F1 team, the German carmaker announced.

He will also “head that company (the Mercedes team) as its executive director”, a media statement added.

Mercedes did not disclose the size of triple world champion Lauda’s new team share.

Source:GMM

Lauda admires Red Bull’s Marko

Niki Lauda has admitted he admires his Austrian compatriot Dr Helmut Marko. Triple world champion Lauda is Mercedes’ new non-executive chairman.

The German business newspaper Handelsblatt on Thursday reported that he is stepping down from the board of the airline Air Berlin.

“The 63-year-old wants to dedicate his future to his role in the formula one team Mercedes,” the report said, adding that Air Berlin has confirmed the news.

Lauda’s task is to steer Mercedes in the right direction after the three-year period of Michael Schumacher’s unsuccessful return to F1. He sees Red Bull’s Marko – the outspoken, brusque character who like Lauda is the link between the main company and the F1 team – as a role model.

“He’s the tough dog,” Lauda told Austrian television Servus TV, “holding everything together and ensuring no one works against the other. When you have this harmonious effect from the smallest mechanic to the head designer all pulling together, you can have this outstanding result,” he said, referring to Red Bull’s three year domination of the sport.

“This applies to many companies in the world,” Lauda continued. “If all worked as Red Bull do in formula one, then they would all be much more successful.”

Source:GMM

Hamilton has already started work at Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton has already started work at Mercedes.

Britain’s Sun newspaper said that although the 2008 world champion remains under contract to McLaren for two more weeks, a “deal” has been agreed whereby the 27-year-old can at least meet his new engineers. And the report said Briton Hamilton also got his first taste of Mercedes’ driver simulator last week.

“Lewis has already been in the factory to see the team and fulfil some duties after we found an agreement about that with McLaren,” said Mercedes’ departing head of motor sport, Norbert Haug.

Hamilton has played down his chances of immediately succeeding at Mercedes, saying he will not really be thinking about titles and wins until at least 2014.

“That’s fine,” non-executive chairman Niki Lauda told Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “I don’t really like when drivers say they are going to win every race. For me, a sober, pragmatic analysis of things is better, where you can positively surprise rather than promise something that can’t necessarily be achieved.”

Lauda admitted, however, that Mercedes must improve.

“We have the best engine and the best drivers. Now we need to improve the car a lot before the season.”

But he tipped reigning world champions Red Bull to enter 2013 as the definite favourites.

“Yes, the rules for 2013 are a great advantage for Red Bull, who are already on a high level, to just go on. But in spite of the limited possibilities, we have to try to make two or three steps forward.

“I know one thing: the people in England are highly motivated and have completely understood their failures.”

And Lauda suggested that if Mercedes fails again, it will not be Hamilton’s fault, nor his 2013 teammate Nico Rosberg’s.

“For me, Hamilton-Rosberg is the strongest pairing compared to all the other teams. Take a look at Red Bull and the gap between Vettel and Webber, or Alonso and Massa at Ferrari. Or, even worse, at McLaren and the gap between Button and Perez. Some teams have worlds between their two drivers.

“Another advantage of Hamilton is that he comes with experience of another team, and he can tell us exactly what are the strengths and weaknesses of our car,” added Lauda.

Source:GMM

Lauda still tipping Vettel to beat Alonso

Sebastian Vettel remains the overwhelming favourite to become 2012 champion, despite Red Bull’s qualifying crisis and the loss of 3 points to Fernando Alonso in Abu Dhabi.

That is the view of F1 legend Niki Lauda, who was asked by Osterreich newspaper if he has changed his mind after Red Bull bungled qualifying last weekend, forcing Vettel to fight up to the podium from a pitlane start. With just two races to go now, Vettel is 10 points ahead of Ferrari’s Alonso.

“Nothing has changed,” Lauda insisted. “I believe Red Bull will have learned from its errors and now have everything technically perfect in the last two races. Then it will be up to Vettel, and he has the fastest car.”

Spaniard Alonso, however, remains determined and feisty, continuing to espouse samurai quotations and push Ferrari to improve the F2012.

“That’s what he’s paid for,” Lauda said, “but he can only carry on as before. “Although he does everything right, it’s not enough, because Ferrari cannot compete with Red Bull.”

Lauda, however, said he is not expecting Vettel to wrap it up in Texas next weekend, but that F1 will get its “super finish” to the championship in Brazil.

David Coulthard, the former McLaren and Red Bull driver, warned Vettel to be wary of the wily Alonso.

“Fernando is a teak-tough competitor and I have a feeling these last two races could get a bit dirty,” he wrote in the Telegraph. “Fernando wants to go to war, wants this to become a battle of wits as much as machines. He is trying to unsettle Seb, while at the same time exuding confidence and serenity. My money is on Seb, but only just.”

Source:GMM

Lauda: Technical trouble at Red Bull is Alonso’s last hope

Fernando Alonso’s last hope to rescue his flagging championship charge in 2012 is a spate of technical problems for Red Bull.

That is the view of F1 great Niki Lauda, who told Germany’s Sport1: “Alonso cannot stop Vettel, unless Vettel suddenly gets technical problems.

“But with just his driving skills, Alonso can’t stop him now, because Red Bull’s progress has been too good.”

Another weapon deployed by Spaniard Alonso in recent days, however, has been the ‘psychological game’. When he said recently his title fight is actually not with Vettel but with Red Bull designer Adrian Newey, many interpreted that as an attack on his German rival.

But Lauda insisted: “Every car needs a good driver. What good is Newey if the driver can’t drive it?”

Indeed, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said criticism is just part of the game, particularly in light of Vettel’s meteoric success over the past few years.

“It is uncomfortable the success that Sebastian has had, and uncomfortable for some the success that Red Bull has had. That’s not our fault,” he insisted.

But Alonso has also been fending off an attack, after the Italian newspaper La Stampa claimed the Spaniard had a heated row with Ferrari’s technical boss Pat Fry in India.

“Normally, when you’re in the fight for the title, it is the press of other countries that tries to destabilise you,” Alonso told Spanish reporters on Thursday. “This time the destabilisation has come from Italy.”

Vettel, however, said he has no intention of entering the fray. “I have no desire for psychological games,” he is quoted by Bild newspaper.

“We should concentrate on the driving instead.”

And, anyway, he said he respects Alonso.

“Sometimes things are dragged out of context,” Vettel insisted, “but the respect is there and that’s what counts.”