Three-time world champion Niki Lauda, never at a loss for an opinion about much of anything, has weighed in on the likelihood of Michael Schumacher’s joining Mercedes GP in 2010.
As quoted on the official Formula 1 website, Lauda said, “I don’t believe that there is one single grain of truth in [the rumors], at least from all the signals that I get. There was a window of opportunity after Felipe’s [Massa’s] accident and had Michael been fit he would have taken up that chance to race for three or four races – to prove himself, get the adrenaline rush, and see where he stood in the pecking order. But I cannot believe that he would be up for a full season. Why then he did stop racing in the first place? But that is my personal opinion.”
Lauda believes that Mercedes have not yet settled on who will partner Nico Rosberg in 2010. He suggests they must be careful to select a team mate who will push Rosberg to the limit, and help accelerate his growth as a driver.
“Rosberg is at the moment their only driver,” Lauda said, “a good man for sure, but good men get even better with a team mate that gives them a hard time 24 hours a day. That is positive, performance and development-wise. They have to be very careful now in their selection, trying to get a top man for the second cockpit. Otherwise the advantage will be on Red Bull’s and Vettel’s side – and they might find themselves riding on Red Bull’s coat tails.”
The fact is, all of Mercedes’ chief rivals next year, Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, will have strong driver line-ups (Vettel/Webber, Hamilton/Button and Alonso/Massa, respectively). If Mercedes and Ross Brawn are to match these teams in relative driver strength, they must partner Nico Rosberg with someone who either equals or surpasses the young German.
Unfortunately, discounting Kimi Raikkonen, who seems inclined to go on sabbatical next year to pursue rally racing, the drivers’ market at this stage is already a bit over-shopped. “In my opinion,” said Lauda, “all the top drivers are already signed.”