While on the outside it looks as though Mercedes have taken Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire from Formula One less than a week after claiming his first ever world championship crown in their stride, former triple world champion Nikki Lauda has now revealed that that is most certainly not the case at all.
Speaking to the Italian press Lauda revealed that when he was told, by phone, just a few hours before Rosberg announced it to the world, he didn’t believe it and thought his driver was playing a joke on them.
However, once it became apparent that it was not a joke, Lauda admits that the team took the news quite badly and that they are now left disorientated and unsure on what to do next.
The biggest problem they face is that the top drivers in the sport, like Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso, are firmly under contract, leaving them the option of either taking on Pascal Wehrlein, or a total rookie.
“We have lost our champion, the best driver of 2016. We know it won’t be easy to replace him simply because all the drivers of a certain standard already have contracts with other teams,” Lauda was quoted as saying in the Gazzetta dello Sport. “Taking on a young driver is a risk because we don’t know if he will be strong enough. Practically half of the grid has offered themselves to us though.”
That last statement has to make you wonder though, because as Lauda said, the top drivers all have contracts, so how could they be offering their services, seriously, if they can’t get out of their current contracts?
One driver who could be a possibility, is Jenson Button, who has just taken a year off from McLaren….the team may be able to persuade him to come back for one season and drive for them. At least that may give them the time they need to get another driver on board whilst still having an experienced world champion behind the wheel of their 2017 contender.
Possible? Who knows, but it is food for thought…