STUART CODLING Y “
“Merc spin machine in reverse gear” ou might have heard him say that, but he did not say it, and that is a fact.” The words of Malcolm Tucker, the potty-mouthed PR from The Thick Of It and In The Loop, sprang to mind last week as the Mercedes spin machine
Usually when Niki Lauda says something inadvisable – shooting, as he does, very much from the hip – his senior Mercedes colleagues laugh it off as “Niki being Niki”. This time, after Lauda told an interviewer on Red Bull’s TV channel that Lewis Hamilton had trashed his private room after crashing out in qualifying at Baku, and that he had “lied” about his supposedly improving relationship with team-mate Nico Rosberg, the reaction was different.
Twenty four hours after quotes from the interview exploded around the internet, Mercedes issued a full retraction on Lauda’s behalf, flat-out denying both claims.
“Niki regrets any misunderstanding caused by comments that have been blown wildly out of proportion compared with the casual context in which they were made,” it concluded.
You might have heard him say that, then, but he did not say it. What a curiously passive-aggressive slamming-shut of the stable door, long after the horse has clip-clopped over the horizon…
Meanwhile, in Brackley, Mercedes’ grown-ups were knuckling down to the vexing business of how to give their drivers a meaningful disincentive to crash into one another, most other avenues of discipline seemingly having failed. How does one dole out effective punishment to a multi-millionaire? After all, docking a portion of their wages is roughly equivalent to you or me, over the course of a year, losing £20 down the back of the sofa.
Word is that Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff didn’t speak to either of his drivers for the first three days of last week, after their latest on-track interface, instead summoning them to talks at the team’s Brackley HQ on Thursday morning. There, in a pre-emptive piece of divideand-rule, he held one-on-one meetings with Hamilton and Rosberg before bringing them both into a meeting with Paddy Lowe in attendance.
Did Paddy and Toto play good-cop-badcop? We will never know. Neither driver was willing to divulge the nature of the sanctions they’ve been threatened with, and Wolff himself didn’t offer much detail beyond “We’ve had a warning, and this is the final warning.”
Not much point in asking the loose-tongued Lauda – he remains in high dudgeon and wasn’t ‘in the room’, MN understands.
Derek Johnston and Jonathan Adam have praised the efforts of their TF Sport team for keeping them in the British GT Championship lead after their car was heavily damaged in a freak accident during practice at Spa last weekend.
Derek Johnston was at the wheel early in free practice one last Friday when he lost control on oil spilled from a GT4 Maserati MC that was running ahead of him on the Kemmel straight.
Johnston’s car hit the barriers on the inside of the straight at around 85mph before sliding into the escape road at the Les Combes chicane.
The second Team Parker Racing