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Exclusive - Niki Lauda's 2008 season roundup 11 Nov 2008

Niki Lauda (AUT). Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, European Grand Prix, Race, Nurburgring, Germany, Sunday 22 July 2007. World © Moy/Sutton Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 2 November 2008 The podium (L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault, second; Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari, race winner; Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari third.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 2 November 2008 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2008 at the end of the pitlane after a fuel rig problem.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 28 September 2008 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 1 November 2008

After 18 races spread over four continents, this year’s thrilling world championship was decided in the very last corner of the very last race. Competition simply doesn’t get any closer than that.

One man who knows all about close competition is three-time world champion Niki Lauda, who won his1984 title by just half a point from team mate Alain Prost. Find out what Lauda had to say about the winners and losers of 2008…

Q: A week or so on from that heart-stopping finale in Brazil, how would you rate the 2008 season?
Niki Lauda:
It was one of the best that I can remember. Three races to go and we still had four drivers in the championship game - from three different teams. That’s pretty unique. And the final decision was all about keeping cool on the driver side and, on the team side, having a car that delivered just at the right time. All I can say is hats off to everyone!

Q: The championship was decided in the very last corner of the very last race. In your view, did the right driver win?
Yes, as the right candidate is the one who has accumulated the most points at the end of the season - and that was Lewis Hamilton. History has shown that it is not necessarily the one with the most wins or the most competitive car. Hamilton had the right package and as a result he is world champion.

Q: And what is it that Hamilton has, that gave him the advantage over Massa by one point? Skill? Team? Luck? What?
As a matter of fact it is all of those. As I said before, it is the right package that counts, and all of these points together - skills, team and luck - enriched with the right sense of caution is what makes a world champion. You have to know when it’s the time to bet high, or to just hold on to what you have.

Q: Both Ferrari and McLaren had their problems to overcome. McLaren had to put the driver animosities and spy scandal of 2007 behind them, while Ferrari had to cope with the transition of power from Jean Todt to Stefano Domenicalli. Who had the easier task?
Both teams had to work very hard to face changes and complex situations. In the end the spy scandal was more of a budget and reputation situation for McLaren, as they were able to go back to daily work and continue to concentrate on the performance and reliability of the car. Ferrari had to concentrate on avoiding a gap in leadership. Stefano was in charge of team management even before Jean Todt left, so he had to make sure the team held on to its performance. In the end both teams secured a world championship, Ferrari the constructors’ and McLaren the drivers’.

Q: Massa did everything right this season and some feel the team let him down, most prominently with the Singapore pit-stop debacle. Do you share that view?
Well, not exactly. Situations like these happen in the heat of the race and have not been done purposely against Felipe. The team has to learn from such mistakes and make sure they never happen again. Of course, without these mistakes Felipe might have been world champion, but it does not make any sense to argue over spilt milk. Felipe and Ferrari will try again in ’09, that is for sure.

Q: Ferrari won the constructors championship by 21 points, suggesting that two equally competitive drivers are required to achieve this title. Is this something that McLaren were lacking?
Well, Heikki Kovalainen showed some very strong moments this year and he also improved his performance and consistency. He is a perfect wingman for Lewis. At Ferrari it is always the case that the team concentrates on the more promising driver, and then when you have two strong drivers - as they had this season - then you will be able to get the constructors’ world championship.

Q: What happened to Raikkonen? He started the season as clear favourite, but it all went wrong with some pretty serious errors. A sign that he’s burnt out as an F1 driver?
Kimi was just not able to maintain last year’s performance. Added to this was the fact that Felipe improved very much and was able to put himself into the number-one driver position. At a certain point it became very clear that Kimi would have to support Felipe to get the drivers’ championship. As to whether this is a sign of burn out, I cannot tell.

Part Two coming soon