Niki Lauda has played down mounting speculation he is in pole position to succeed Bernie Ecclestone. It is claimed that Ferrari’s Sergio Marchionne, backed by Mercedes chief Toto Wolff, is advocating that a group of three should take over from the 85-year-old F1 ‘supremo’. “When I think about the sporting side, then for me Niki Lauda is one of the hottest candidates,” Red Bull official Dr Helmut Marko told Tiroler Tageszeitung newspaper. F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman Lauda, however, is not racing away with the job.
“If some people here believe that it is easy to replace him (Ecclestone), they are mistaken,” the 67-year-old former triple world champion told Auto Motor und Sport. “Bernie still has 15 per cent of the business and only he was able to get our engine parts through customs that fast in Russia,” Lauda added. Still, there is much discontent with the political situation in F1 at present but at least key chassis and engine rule changes have now been passed for 2017. Fellow Mercedes chief Wolff argued against the change, but Lauda says it would have been wrong to delay the decision yet again.
“If we had postponed the decision again we would not have got a better outcome. It’s a compromise,” he insisted. “Whether it fulfils expectations remains to be seen. You can never be satisfied with compromises but in the current balance of power, with everyone thinking only of themselves, it is the only possibility. So in these circumstances, it is the best possible solution. The cars will definitely be faster and more aggressive, and with the engine we have gained time with the hybrid technology. This is definitely better than going back to the old eight cylinders,” Lauda said.
Lauda also backed the drivers’ union GPDA that he once led, insisting those who actually sit in the cars have the right to a say. “They are the main characters of the sport to it would be wrong to stop them from talking and having an opinion. Their last action,” said Lauda, referring to the drivers’ highly controversial letter, “should simply be seen as part of the show.”
Finally, while he said he is no fan of covering the cockpits, Lauda accepts it is now inevitable that either the ‘halo’ or ‘aeroscreen’ concepts are on their way into F1. “We can no longer explain this issue away,” said Lauda. “It is true that the DNA of formula one is being disturbed, but we have seen accidents that would probably have been less serious if we had this protection. Now we need to find the best solution. I don’t like the halo so the solution proposed by Red Bull looks like it is better,” he added.