OCTOBER 17, 2016
Lauda, Fittipaldi defend Verstappen driving
Niki Lauda has backed Max Verstappen's driving during the recent Japanese grand prix.
Initially, Mercedes lodged a protest against the Dutchman's defensive move in his duel with Lewis Hamilton, in which Verstappen changed direction under braking.
The team referred to a generic rule forbidding dangerous driving, but Mercedes ultimately dropped the protest.
"This paragraph (rule) could be interpreted in all sorts of ways so it's worthless," Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda told Auto Motor und Sport.
"The two of them didn't even touch, so nothing happened. The protest would have been lost before it even began."
Lauda said he would even have driven in a similar way to Verstappen.
"If I was him, I wouldn't have let Lewis past on the penultimate lap either.
"For me, the action in Suzuka was much less dangerous than the one on the straight with Kimi in Spa," he said.
Also backing Verstappen in the wake of the latest Suzuka controversy is F1 legend Emerson Fittipaldi.
The Brazilian called the young Dutchman "a phenomenon", and dismissed those who think Verstappen is too aggressive.
"No, it's just his way of fighting," Fittipaldi told Italy's Corriere della Sera. "And it's spectacular. He will be a champion, for sure."