Niki Lauda believes that Valtteri Bottas was the right chioce
Three-time world championship winner Niki Lauda believes that Nico Rosberg would have done no better than Valtteri Bottas in the Australian Grand Prix.
Bottas claimed third place in his debut race for Mercedes-AMG in Melbourne, finishing behind Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
The Finn produced a hugely impressive drive on Sunday, and finished 1.3s behind Mercedes teammate Hamilton, who finished behind race winner Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.
Talking to Sky Sports F1, Lauda said: “The biggest problem was that when Nico decided suddenly overnight that he was not going to race with us anymore, we were standing there with open mouths.
“Then we had long discussions, Toto and I, [about] who should we take. Then for me, for sure we had the right choice, which was always Bottas, he was number one in the list.
“I went straight for him because we needed an experienced, quick guy. The young guy [Pascal] Wehrlein was for me a little bit of a risk because he did not have enough experience.
“We expected Bottas in a new car, with a new team, with the help of the team that he would get quicker.
“And he did all that. So the whole weekend he was a sensation. I don’t think he would have been worse than Nico if he had raced here.
“It would have been exactly the same result. He was the first time out of the car, which was outstanding.”
On the evidence of Bottas’ performance at Melbourne on Sunday, the discussion to opt for the experienced Finn over Pascal Wehrlein was the right one.
The Sauber driver did not race at the Australian GP as he is still recovering from a back injury sustained during January’s Race of Champions in Miami.
LAUDA’S PRESTIGIOUS RACING CAREER
Mercedes non-executive chairman Lauda enjoyed a prestigious career, winning the world championship in 1975, 1977, and 1984.
The Austrian’s racing career is best remembered for his fierce rivalry with British driver James Hunt who won the 1976 championship with McLaren. Their rivalry was subject of the (2013) film Rush.
Lauda suffered horrific injuries during the 1976 German Grand Prix at the old Nürburgring.
Racing with Ferrari at the time, just before the infamous Bergwerk right hand corner, the Austrian spun through fencing and into an earth bank, causing Lauda’s Ferrari 312T2 to burst into flames.
After the crash, he was airlifted to hospital, where he fought for his life over the next few days.