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

Motor Sport News - - Racing News - By Rob Lad­brook Photos: Jakob Ebrey, Ledgepix

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

Re­built As­ton took sev­enth place fin­ish John­ston’s car had frontal dam­age Bent­ley was de­stroyed in big ac­ci­dent

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