| Lewis Hamilton |
Barcelona: Niki Lauda hailed Lewis Hamilton as “unbeatable” after his fourth victory in a row on Sunday in Spain, with the Mercedes F1 chairman predicting on-track “warfare” between his two drivers as their title duel unfolds.
Lauda, a three-time world champion, said that nobody could better Hamilton on his current form, as he gave the 29-year-old the highest possible praise.
“Lewis is unbeatable — it’s very simple to say,” Lauda was quoted as saying by The Daily Telegraph. “Because he’s getting better and better every race, he makes no b***** mistake whatsoever and nobody can beat him at the moment.
“Nico tried every trick (on Sunday) to get him. And he did a good job, but he couldn’t pass him. Lewis is outstanding at the moment. Nobody can beat him. Very simple.”
Hamilton held off Rosberg in the closing stages to finally wrest the championship lead from his German team-mate, and Lauda even suggested that drivers from previous eras would struggle to match the Briton at the moment.
In comments which will be difficult to hear for Rosberg, who has finished behind Hamilton for the past four races, the 65-year-old said: “He does nothing wrong, he knows what he’s doing, he’s got a strong personality, he’s focused. You can’t beat the guy. You cannot compare them [past drivers] but I would not know anybody today who could beat him in the same car.”
While their rivals are far from throwing in the towel, Mercedes have been suggesting all weekend that it will be almost impossible to catch them given their advantage. But Lauda insisted that the constructors’ championship was still open, despite Mercedes taking 197 points from a possible 215 in the first five races.
“I wish that this continues to a point in the championship where there is no third guy, then I’m completely relaxed,” he said.
“Then they can drive over each other, and whoever is surviving is the world champion. This is my dream, but we’re not there yet. I want them to throw everybody off and then there is no enemy, and then it’s really going to be warfare.”
Christian Horner, Red Bull’s team principal, conceded on Sunday that there was a chance that Mercedes could win all of this year’s 19 races.
“Mercedes have got themselves into a dominant position,” Horner said. “We have a choice: we either pack up and go home or we fight. We have made small inroads and we are determined to keep pushing, but obviously maximum points every weekend is putting them in a very strong position.
The 48-second gap is a little artificial because we lost a lot of time behind Williams and it is about managing tyres to the end of the race. When we had clear air, we definitely moved closer.”
“It is possible but improbable that Mercedes would win all 19 races this year. They have a good engine-car-driver combination at the moment but things can change. We won the last nine races of last year and things changed very quickly.”
Daniel Ricciardo achieved his first Formula One podium finish, after his disqualification in Melbourne, while his teammate Sebastian Vettel progressed from 15th on the grid up to fourth.
“It’s nice to stand back up on the podium — I actually still feel a bit awkward up there, but I’m sure I will get more comfortable,” Ricciardo said. “It seems at the moment it’s Mercedes who are battling between themselves and they are doing a tremendous job.”
Mercedes, meanwhile, may have found the answer for Formula One fans longing for more engine noise in the new V6 era and they are ready to sound off about it.
They will try a new ‘megaphone’ type exhaust at a test in Barcelona this week as the sport seeks a solution to a problem of its own making.
“I’m sure everybody is looking forward to hearing what the ‘megaphone’ is going to be like,” Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff told reporters at the Spanish Grand Prix.
“We’re pretty clear — if the fans want to have more noise, and if it’s making the car not only sound better but it’s perceived to be in a better and more attractive way, then we'll go for it.”
The sound of the new V6 turbo hybrid engines, which have replaced the screaming old V8s this year, provided an immediate controversy when the season started in Australia in March and has divided the paddock.
Some of the race promoters, who flew in from around the world to meet in Barcelona on Saturday, have called for more noise and fear ticket sales could fall off if fans are alienated by the lack of decibels.