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Lauda: we’re in for a thriller season 02 May 2007

Niki Lauda (AUT). Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Friday 13 April 2007. World © Sutton

Three races run and heading back to Europe - what better time to catch up with Niki Lauda to get the former champion’s impressions of the 2007 season to date. Speaking exclusively to Formula1.com, Lauda reveals his opinions on the championship aspirants, the prospect of team orders and much more…

Q: So, are we set for a thriller of a season?
Niki Lauda:
Absolutely! This season will be the most exciting for years - we will not only see a shoot-out between the teams, but also amongst the team mates. There will be a do-or-die fight between Alonso and Hamilton, and between Massa and Raikkonen.

Q: Is there a new colour code on the podium - red and silver?
NL:
As far as I can see, these two colours - Ferrari and McLaren - will dominate the season and will fight out this year’s championship. And I expect a very tough fight between their own team mates, especially if one team gets into the lead.

Q: Four drivers look like potential 2007 champions - Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso and Hamilton. Who do you think has the edge?
NL:
As unbelievable as it sounds, at the moment I can see Lewis Hamilton heading the ranking. Because of his young and clean experience - he is as fast as Alonso.

Q: Do you think Ferrari and/or McLaren will ultimately focus their efforts on one driver? When could team orders kick in?
NL:
I hope they will not give any team orders until the last two races. At the moment I cannot see a faster driver within either one of these teams, so I don’t think this will happen in the near future.

Q: Ferrari or McLaren - which team is favourite?
NL:
For the moment this is not easy to say. Both teams have done their homework and both have very strong drivers. Right now, we have to wait a couple of more races to see who can get into the lead, either through a possible performance advantage, or through driver mistakes.

Q: And the third power on the grid?
NL:
At the moment it is definitely BMW Sauber , and I see that the development of the car seems to fit. For Renault there is still a very long way to go, as the car does not suit the tyres. Since we have only one tyre supplier, the teams have to concentrate on the tyres, and not the other way round.

Q: Who gets your thumbs-up? Which team and driver have surprised you most so far?
NL:
For me, obviously, McLaren and Hamilton stunned me the most. I did not expect a rookie to be so advanced and strong minded as he is. If his learning curve continues to go upwards in the future, we can expect even more from him. If the team are able to improve the performance and create an advantage over Ferrari, this year’s championship will be a duel between him and Alonso.

Q: Who gets your thumbs-down? Which team or driver has disappointed you the most so far?
NL:
This year’s disappointment for me is Toyota. They did not manage to give their drivers a competitive car.

Q: And the best of the rest?
NL:
Besides the first three teams, most of the others, like Renault, Toyota and the Red Bull squad, need to improve and develop their car, otherwise this season will be even more disappointing for them. As for Williams and Super Aguri with their customer engines, it is fascinating to see how much they have made their respective manufacturer teams look silly.