Niki Lauda is a man with a straight forward sort of attitude. He’s blunt, to the point, and that sometimes rubs people the wrong way. I can guarantee you what he just said about Nico Rosberg will be one of those times.
Ever since Nico Rosberg’s retirement announcement there has been a swath of opinions flying around about him that are both negative and positive. Add to that the offseason drama of Mercedes AMG attempting to find Nico’s replacement, young drivers leaving the team for greener pastures, Lewis Hamilton’s consistent off-track news, and you have yourselfe recipe for some really good sound bites. Niki Lauda’s after Nico’s retirement announcement was high drama, but this one might be even better.
Lauda has gone on record saying that the incoming Bottas is just as good as Nico.
Mercedes Formula 1 chief Niki Lauda has tipped Valtteri Bottas to be just as quick as Nico Rosberg, as he made clear the Finn was free to challenge new teammate Lewis Hamilton as hard as he wanted in 2017.
“Bottas is the best man,” Lauda told German broadcaster RTL. “I believe he can drive similarly as fast as Nico. This is why we start the new season with him and Hamilton.
Essentially, Lauda is saying that Nico was inconsequential and is easily replaced. Not those words, but that’s the tone I’m gleaning from Lauda’s remarks.
As for a potential inter-team rivalry, Lauda said that’s perfectly fine.
Lauda also made it clear that Bottas would be free to challenge Hamilton as hard as he wanted, as Mercedes guns for its fourth consecutive F1 title.
“As always: both drivers can push as much as they want, completely free. This never has changed at Mercedes and it won’t change in the future.
So Lauda could care less that Rosberg is gone and has given Bottas and Hamilton the green light to race each other with no team orders. This is shaping up to be quite interesting for next season.