AUGUST 27, 2017
Lauda plays down Vettel talks confusion
Niki Lauda has played down the confusion about whether Mercedes came close to signing Sebastian Vettel for 2018 and beyond.
At Spa, Ferrari ended the uncertainty about Vettel's future by saying it has agreed a new three-year contract with the championship leader.
The news came just 24 hours after Vettel said there would in fact be no news about his future for at least two weeks.
"Yeah, I didn't think it's the right time so I didn't rush or push," he said. "But things came along fairly quickly and in the end we decided to go for it and make the call."
More controversial was Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda's claim that the German camp actually negotiated with Vettel until June.
"Only when it became clear that he wanted to stay with Ferrari did we break off the negotiations," said the F1 legend.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, however, denied it.
"There were no contract negotiations with Sebastian. At all. Zero," he said.
"I don't know what Niki was asked, but in the end we're all in the paddock and we all ask each other 'How are you?' 'What are you doing?'" Wolff explained.
Indeed, Lauda didn't see what all the fuss was about when asked why his account of the Vettel talks differed so fundamentally from Wolff's.
"It was clear that he's staying there. He'll retire there," he told Bild newspaper.
"I don't understand all the excitement. Of course I talk with Vettel but there were no negotiations," Lauda clarified.
"We always assumed that we would stay there. The question was only for how long."