Exclusive - Niki Lauda reviews the season so far 02 May 2008
With four races gone, four drivers having claimed pole positions and three having stood atop the podium, the 2008 season is proving highly competitive - and therefore relatively difficult to evaluate.
That does not, however, deter three time world champion Niki Lauda from trying - despite the as-yet uncertain pecking order. Speaking exclusively to Formula1.com, Lauda reveals his thoughts on the season so far, with a quick-fire review of how the best - and the rest - have performed
Q: Have the world champions kept up last seasons momentum?
Niki Lauda: Thats very easy, as last year does not count. This year they have certainly kept the momentum, as they are the most competitive team at the moment.
Q: There has been a transition of leadership from Jean Todt to Stefano Domenicali - what has it meant for the team?
NL: I dont know, but at the moment the team works perfectly.
Q: In the battle between Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, who do you think will come out on top? And do you believe the team will eventually favour one driver?
NL: The team will always lean towards one driver - the quicker one - and all indications for now point towards Kimi.
Q: After a difficult start in Melbourne, Raikkonen has now started to show performances worthy of a champion. Is he leading the pack?
NL: For the moment Kimi is definitely the leader of the pack, but we have to see how the next few races go.
Q: Felipe Massas performances are a bit inconsistent at the moment. Why do you think that is? Is something eating the Brazilian?
NL: If Massa gets his things right, he is certainly able to win races.
Q: Has the spy saga affected McLaren?
NL: No, I dont think so, because they started very well this year, and at the moment they have to get the momentum back, because BMW Sauber has caught right up.
Q: In the Lewis Hamilton versus Heikki Kovalainen battle, who do you believe will come out on top?
NL: Hamilton has had a difficult start to this season, as he has made some mistakes, nevertheless he will come back stronger. Kovalainen surprised in the first races so I hope he is able to put his high-speed accident (in Barcelona) quickly behind him.
Q: Do you think Hamilton is caving in a bit under the pressure of being a championship contender?
NL: Lewis will certainly make a comeback - he just made a couple of mistakes in the beginning.
On BMW Sauber:
Q: Are BMW Sauber still the third power on the grid or have they already got the better of McLaren?
NL: At the moment BMW is fighting with McLaren for the second position behind Ferrari, and Barcelona was a key race in determining who will keep the edge.
Q: Were BMW Sauber the real winners of last years spy scandal, as they were able to fully concentrate on their development?
NL: I dont see a connection. BMWs development of their car was constant.
Q: Have you been surprised by their performance?
NL: My surprise was that they were that strong at the beginning of the season.
Q: Who will come out on top between Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica?
NL: Both are having a very even run, so for the moment I cannot tell, as both are very competitive.
Q: Kubica is currently third in the driver standings. Could he be a potential runner-up in the championship?
NL: It is too early to say - I have no idea at the moment. Much depends on how quickly BMW Sauber are able to close the gap to Ferrari.
Q: Heidfeld was second in the standings before his unhappy race in Barcelona. Will he win his first race this season?
NL: Again, it is too early to say. I have no idea at the moment. But for him it will be the same as it is for Kubica. The teams development speed is key.
Q: For Williams the start of the season has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride - one race on top, while the next is a flop. Will they be able to stabilise their performance?
NL: In certain conditions they seem to have no grip, which is the main reason for these up and downs. So their major concern needs to be finding out the reason for this problem and then correct it.
Q: Did Nico Rosberg make a good decision when he decided to stay with the British team?
NL: Its too early to say.
Q: Are the Japanese team finally on their way to the top? Do you believe the departure of Ralf Schumacher has helped that development?
NL: Ralfs departure has nothing to do with that. They are certainly much more competitive than in the past, because the development seemed to be in the right direction.
Q: Can Jarno Trulli finally mould the Toyota to his driving style and push the team forward?
NL: Jarno, together with a better performance from the team, can possibly bring the team forward.
Q: The French squad have had a disappointing start to the season? Where did they go wrong?
NL: Renault is just not quick enough at the moment, and for them it is a very long way to get back to the top.
Q: Can an exceptional driver like Fernando Alonso put things back on track?
NL: Alonsos return to Renault certainly made for a big change from the drivers point of view. But in the end its very simple - the car needs to get quicker, so Alonso can do a better job.
On Red Bull:
Q: Has chief technical officer Adrian Newey lost his magic touch?
NL: Not at all, but the team has many issues, especially as they have had to overcome a huge reliability problem.
On Toro Rosso:
Q: If they have to sever ties with Red Bull Technology and become constructors again, what will it mean for the team?
NL: They are on hold for the moment, as they have to wait (and see) what will happen with Red Bull.
Q: What do you think will be the future of the team on and off track?
NL: The future of the team will depend on the owner. Mateschitz wants to sell it, which is certainly not good for the teams motivation.
Q: Will Ross Brawn be able to turn the team around?
NL: Ross will definitely make a turn around for the team, but it will take time.
On Force India:
Q: Have the teams new owners made a good start?
NL: Certainly yes, as they have already made a lot of improvements to Spyker. Last year they were nowhere and now you can sometimes find them in the middle of the field.
Q: For Giancarlo Fisichella the move from a top team to a backmarker must have been a big mental challenge
NL: Yes, for sure a very hard mental challenge, but he is doing a very good job at the moment.
On Super Aguri:
Q: Are they still fit enough for Formula One racing?
NL: Very difficult to say, as they are fighting to get their budget together. Only then, we can judge them.