Among the modern art in Bernie Ecclestone’s Knightsbridge offices is a picture of him and Niki Lauda — Monaco, from the Seventies. Inscribed on it by Lauda are the words: ‘A lot of people are tall. Only a few have a big heart. You are one of them. You make us all look small.’
Well, here in a lukewarm paddock this weekend ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix, that fraternal bond has been a little strained.
For Lauda, a three-time world champion and Mercedes chairman, has remonstrated with Ecclestone for criticising his driver Nico Rosberg, the championship leader, as being rather on the dull side to be a worthwhile title winner. ‘There’s nothing to write about him,’ Ecclestone said.
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is presented with a birthday cake at Red Bull Racing's Mexico GP hospitality by Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner (left) as Niki Lauda (right) looks on
Standing with Mercedes chief Toto Wolff, Lauda has hit back at Ecclestone's jibes regarding Rosberg not being as an exciting world champion as Lewis Hamilton if he claims the crown
Ecclestone and Lauda's fraternal bond has been a little strained heading into the Mexican GP
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Now, when you have nearly been burnt out of existence in a Ferrari fireball, as Lauda was 40 years ago, you have nothing to fear by going in and giving it straight to the little Big Man who runs the sport with an aura of distant fear.
‘I did speak to Bernie,’ Lauda reported back. ‘He told me he never meant it in a hard way about Nico. Typical Bernie. We all know that he did. He will never admit it if he says or does too much. But I think I gave him the message.
‘I said to him it is not a marketing world championship; it is a drivers’ world championship. And if I have a driver here fighting like hell with his friend, who is racing in the same car [Lewis Hamilton], right on the limit, and then the Godfather makes this kind of comment it is hard. It is too hard.’
As we meet, Lauda is just back from a few days of rest and relaxation in Los Angeles after the US race, won by Hamilton.
Ecclestone has claimed there is little to write about Nico Rosberg should he become champion
Lauda denies any rift with Lewis Hamilton who he observes during the US GP weekend
The Mercedes chief has compared Hamilton and Rosberg's clash of styles with the classic rivalry between himself and James Hunt from the late 1970s
‘Let’s go inside,’ he said, not liking the cool paddock temperature. ‘It is cold out here. Typical English – you’re just wearing a shirt in this weather.’
Lauda was in trademark garb. Jeans, a blue jumper (pulled on rather than around his waist as is often the case), an anorak and a red cap which conceals some of the horrific scarring he suffered in that Nurburgring fire.
Shielded in the Mercedes motorhome, Lauda drew on his experience to assess the state of the title race and the sport.
Next for discussion, Rosberg’s team-mate Hamilton, who trails Rosberg by 26 points going into the final three rounds, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. ‘I have no problem with Lewis at all,’ he said. ‘What he does between races is none of my business. He has one style of life; relaxed, enjoying himself. Nico has a different one; focused on the car, getting everything right.
‘No problem. It was like James Hunt and me. We were different. I was very concentrated. He had an easy life. He was eccentric. But he was good for Formula One.
Hamilton and Rosberg crashed into each other to put them both out of the Spanish GP
While on the last lap in Austria, the Mercedes team-mates collided again fighting for first
Hamilton would go on to win in Austria despite the controversial collision with his team-mate
‘So far I’ve not had to manage them at all. They know what they are doing. Since the problems we had earlier in the year (when they crashed in Spain and Austria) they have done everything we expected them to do; race each other, but not hit each other.
|1. Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||9||331|
|2. Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||7||305|
|3. Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1||227|
|4. Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||0||177|
|5. Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||0||170|
|6. Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1||165|
‘I don’t give them any advice.They are driving as well as they have each driven over the last few years. Sometimes one wins, next time the other.’
Lauda is not entirely sanguine about Formula One despite three years of Mercedes domination. The rules are a gigantic bore, he thinks.
‘There are too many rules,’ said the Austrian. ‘Nobody understands any more what the hell is going on. Every race new rules are written by Charlie (Whiting, the race director) for the stewards to take decisions.
‘He goes and asks the drivers. For example, he asks Lewis if the movement (Max) Verstappen made was correct or not (referring to the Red Bull youngster moving under braking in Japan). Lewis says it was incorrect because if Verstappen had not done it he might have been a place ahead of him.
Hamilton looked to pass Red Bull's Max Verstappen on the penultimate lap of the Japan GP
But the Dutchman controversially cut across in the braking zone to block the Brit from passing
‘If you ask Verstappen, he says it was correct because he defended his position. We are getting into too many details and everybody is confused.’
For all that, Lauda welcomes the rule changes lined up for next year — wider cars and more speed. ‘Absolutely perfect,’ he said.
Many enthusiasts talk more fondly about the old days, when he was driving. There was greater danger then, more lives were lost. Indeed, 40 years ago to the week Lauda pulled out of the race in Japan that settled the 1976 world title. Hunt drove on and was crowned champion.
‘There was too much water and they only started because it was televised,’ said Lauda. ‘I stopped and I’d do the same again. If you asked me whether I would rather race now or then, I’d say today. I would get ten times the money. I have no risks.’
He recalled the remark that Hunt made about him even before the Nurburgring accident, saying he was ugly.
‘If I was racing now I would not have had the fire and I would be uglier than I am,’ said Lauda, smiling. ‘It would be 100 times better.’
Source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/formulaone/article-3886028/Niki-Lauda-whacks-Godfather-Bernie-Ecclestone-Nico-Rosberg-jibes-admits-F1-rules-2017-look-absolutely-perfect.html