Lauda: We are still making up our minds


Whether it was wishful thinking or simple naivety, Mercedes initial insistence that it would name Nico Rosberg's replacement by the end of the year is coming back to bite it.

Having admitted last week that a decision would not be made until the beginning of the new year, Niki Lauda has now admitted it could take even longer.

"We had hoped for a faster solution, but the discussions prove to be difficult," admitted the Austrian during a chat with Red Bull's motorsport consultant and countryman, Helmut Marko, on Servus TV.

"There are two scenarios, he continued, "we take a young gun like Wehrlein who could turn out to be a Verstappen, or he couldn't, or we take an experienced guy. We are still making up our minds.

"It's a huge discussion," he admitted, "and it might take until the end of January before we know which route we are going to take."

Marko, the driving force behind the Red Bull Driver Programme which has made (and broken) a number of F1 careers, delighted in mocking Mercedes apparent lack of faith in its own driver programme.

"You have a young driver programme and you have the highly-rated Wehrlein," he said. "But according to our information it won't be Wehrlein in the car. This means you don't trust your own junior programme."

"I have to correct that one," snapped Lauda. "The young driver programme is a junior driver programme, as you say. It's there for young drivers to get experience. Of course we can discuss about Wehrlein being ready or not, but I want to remind you of Max Verstappen first. He was parked over at Toro Rosso until the Russian didn't drive properly anymore and then you moved him across."

"Wehrlein is very young, but no risk, no fun," countered Marko. "If you take Bottas, you have to give Williams a two-digit discount on the engine deal.

"You have a budget of €22m, however, as this is what Rosberg would have cost you," he continued. "But you also have to buy a seat for Wehrlein at a team which is running an engine from a competitor."

Touché... or whatever the Austrian equivalent is.

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Published: 20/12/2016
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