OCTOBER 4, 2013
Lauda says Schumacher exit was best thing for Mercedes
Replacing Michael Schumacher with Lewis Hamilton was the right thing for Mercedes.
That is the claim not only of F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, but also the German team's own Niki Lauda.
A year ago, Lauda was instrumental in convincing Lewis Hamilton to leave McLaren and replace the seven time world champion, Schumacher.
"It was the right decision to sign Lewis," Ecclestone told Germany's Auto Bild.
"He woke the team up. And he can push the other driver (Nico Rosberg) in a way Michael couldn't anymore."
Lauda, meanwhile, revealed on Friday to Die Welt newspaper that, just before the 2012 Singapore grand prix, he was invited to a Mercedes board meeting as a guest.
There, the great Austrian said he asked to take on the matter of Mercedes' 2014 driver lineup.
A few days later, he was in a Singapore hotel room at 2am, trying to convince Briton Hamilton to leave McLaren. He eventually succeeded.
"Hamilton with Rosberg was the most important part of turning Mercedes around," the triple world champion said.
"Lewis is such a natural talent and he complements Nico so well with his (Rosberg's) attention to every technical detail. It is the best driver lineup there is -- not even Alonso and Raikkonen will be as good," added Lauda.
Lauda said he doesn't blame Schumacher for Mercedes' struggles between 2010 and 2012.
But when asked what would have happened if the great German stayed in 2013, Lauda admitted: "Not much.
"After a certain time you need a whole new motivation for a team, and a new top driver can do that."
Lauda said Mercedes also recognised it needed to spend more money on its F1 programme to compete with the top teams.
"We adopted this RRA-system," said Lauda, referring to the resource restriction agreement, a pact between the teams to limit costs.
"But it was not respected by McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari for various reasons," he said.
"I said from the beginning, 'Forget this RRA-system -- we need new and better people if we want to beat Red Bull'," admitted Lauda.
One of those 'better people' was Paddy Lowe, who like Hamilton arrived from McLaren.
But Lauda admits there was some tension for a time between Lowe and team boss Ross Brawn.
"We have clarified it," he said. "Paddy came to us earlier than we expected, but he is now responsible for the technical side. The collaboration between him and Ross works.
"Ross is the team boss, Paddy (is in charge of) the technical side. Our results this year have shown we made the right decisions."