Lauda had role in Lewis switch
NIKI LAUDA: This was at the 2012 Sepang F1 GP - this week he explained his role in Lewis Hamilton's switch from McLaren to Mercedes. Image: AFP
LONDON, England - Niki Lauda revealed on Sunday his role in luring Lewis Hamilton from McLaren to Mercedes for whom F1 legend Lauda acts as a non-executive chairman.
On Thursday Mercedes announced that Hamilton would replace Michael Schumacher for the 2013 Formula 1 season, bringing to an end the Briton's 14-year association with the team. Lauda, 63, told BBC Radio Five: "I spoke to him (Hamilton) a couple of times. He had a clear plan and I didn't have to convince him of anything.
"I was impressed by his approach to things - pragmatic, no emotion. The real discussion was, 'why should I leave a competitive car where my life is easier in the future?'. My argument was, 'if you're looking for a new challenge then the Mercedes team is one'.
"Thinking the other way round, if Michael Schumacher could not get the Mercedes team - for three years - up front and you next year are doing much better, this makes a huge impact on your personality. People will rate you much higher."
Lauda continued: "The money discussion I was not really involved in. The money was not really the case. The offer was very close to McLaren's... in the end it was that he wants a new challenge.
"If you drive six years for the same the team and for the same people you get used to each other. It works for him because he won one championship and he is winning races, but nevertheless a new challenge with new people... you learn different things and different approaches. It's something that, for a competitive guy such as Lewis, was very interesting."
'NO No.1 DRIVER'
Lauda has no doubt about the 27-year-old's speed and quality but insisted there was no No.1 driver in the Mercedes team. "I think he is, (even) in a bad car, the best driver in the world because he's unbelievably quick," Lauda said. "He makes no compromise."
"There's no No.1 or No.2. There's enough money for Mercedes that they can prepare two cars exactly the same way. Hamilton will push Nico Rosberg to go quicker and Nico will push Hamilton to go quicker - really all you need in a team."
Lauda also dismissed as "absolute nonsense" any suggestion that seven-times former champion Schumacher was, at 43, too old to cut it in F1.
"He failed in a car that was never competitive," Lauda explained in a separate interview with German weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine.