Lauda: Mercedes can fight top three teams
10 February 2013 – Three-time Formula 1 World Champion Niki Lauda believes that Mercedes, running with a modified driver line-up of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, will be able to join the battle for a top three position in this year’s Constructors’ Championship.
The German marque, recently subjected to major structural changes, has failed to finish higher than fourth in the overall standings since re-entering the sport as a works outfit in 2010. However, Lauda, who acts as the team's Non-Executive Chairman, was left feeling positive after the opening test of the year at Jerez.
"The cars are relatively close together," Lauda told Bild. "In my view, Vettel is the fastest at the moment. The Red Bull works well and looks reliable. He is a bit faster than the rest, but my joy is that Mercedes can now compete with the top three teams."
Lauda also touched upon the early technical issues Mercedes suffered this week, with both Rosberg and Hamilton restricted to less than 20 laps on their first days in the new F1 W04. Although the problems were a setback, the 63-year-old played down their impact.
"The tests are there so you can eliminate errors," said Lauda. "Nico and Lewis have been so busy in the final days. The two failures on the first days were made up for."
Rosberg, who claimed the first Mercedes victory for 57 years at the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix, and Hamilton collectively completed more than three and a half race distances at Jerez, bouncing back from respective hydraulic and brake failures.