The three-time champion and Mercedes F1 chairman is worried about the future the of sport under its new owners
The 2021 engine rules seem to have stirred up some feelings from the top teams. Ferrari has done its usual thing of threatening to quit the sport and now Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda is wondering whether Liberty Media is doing the right things for Formula 1.
He sees the rules as a way of trying to make F1 cars more equal, something he’s against happening, which isn’t exactly a shock given that the current rules have allowed his team to pretty much dominate. He told Italian paper Gazzetto dello Sport:
“I’m worried. It was right that the American owners needed time to understand what F1 is - but that is about to expire. And what they think about the future is worrying me. The FIA, Chase Carey and Ross Brawn repeat that we need to level the performance, but the DNA of F1 is the opposite.”
“You are a fool if you think that to make grands prix more attractive you need to have a different winner every weekend. F1 is about competition. Developing cars is one of the important foundations, as well as the bravery of the drivers. Instead, you want to penalise the best teams, and protect the drivers as if they are babies - with the introduction of the Halo for example.”
It’s not just the rules Lauda is concerned with, he’s also worried about the financial situation - again, perhaps unsurprising given that this is the bloke who gave a load of his racing trophies away in exchange for free car washes.
This year, F1 teams are likely to receive less money as revenues have decreased for the first time in years, which Lauda thinks is a serious concern.
“But the heart of the problem is something else. In the face of cost growth of some 70 million (Euro) from one year to the next, revenues have declined. But where do we want to go from here? There should be ideas for generating more money, but I do not see them.
“I heard from Sean Bratches, who would like to see the drivers accompanied with grid kids. Is imitating football having new ideas?”
Lauda thinks that Liberty’s plan to introduce is a good idea, but that it’s an example of how the sport is coming up with ways of improving things without thinking them through - and that if it does have a plan, the teams aren’t being kept informed.
“It needs a more open project. For example, the budget cap. It is logical and correct but it needs a three-year plan to realise it. We have employees, so what do we do with them? Do we just cast them off and throw them on the road? For now Liberty has only announced that they want to introduce it, but they have not explained how they intend to realise it.”
Is Lauda right? Is Liberty going about things in the wrong way? Or is Niki only complaining because the proposed rule changes stand to harm Mercedes’ position more than most?