Exclusive Niki Lauda Q&A: Alonso will be champion 25 Sep 2012
This season may be one of the most unpredictable - and exciting - in years, but three-time world champion Niki Lauda is never short of an opinion, so we thought wed ask him to supply a few predictions on how 2012 will pan out. In typically forthright fashion, the Austrian assesses the strongest contenders for the title and gauges the likely outcome of this years silly season driver line-up rumours
Q: Niki, were enjoying one of the most exciting championships ever. Which of the contenders most epitomises your ideal of a champion?
Niki Lauda: Fernando Alonso - because he is making all the right moves. He is fast and he is getting the car over the finish line. He is aggressive when needed. He is Mr Right, right now.
Q: Which former great would you compare him too?
NL: Thats impossible. Every great driver is perfect for his time.
Q: When you were racing, what attributes did you need as a driver? And what ones do you need nowadays?
NL: They are the same. The requirements you need to become world champion never change. The package that you represent has to work now, just as it had to work back then. The commercial aspects have probably changed, but that in itself has nothing to do with the on-track performance.
Q: But there are drivers who have a huge economic value even though they may not be the fastest on the track. Is that a recent development?
NL: If you want to be champion you have to do it on the track. Its true there are years when the commercial aspects can prevail, but it has nothing to do with the title fight. The parameters in terms of that have never changed.
Q: There are seven drivers who believe they could still win the title. Do you believe all seven are still contenders?
NL: Yes and no. Theoretically and mathematically yes. But the big question is whether Alonso will stop racing. (laughs) If so, then the others might get into a position where they can catch up. But why should he stop? I say that he will carry on racing the way he has done so far and then the list of those who count themselves still in the running is dramatically reduced.
Q: What would Ferrari be without Alonso?
NL: Not as good. It is always the combination of driver and team that makes success.
Q: But isnt it more to do with the driver? In the case of Ferrari and Alonso, there are differing opinions on the extent to which the car has been improved?
NL: It is always a combination of both sides. The team has to understand what is wrong with the car and the driver has to do the right thing. And then you can compensate for a poor start to the season.
Q: If Alonso is your leading driver, how do the others line up behind him?
NL: The usual suspects: Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen.
Q: Raikkonen is third in the standings, even though he hasnt yet won a race this year. Is it possible to have a win-less champion?
NL: Why not? The fascinating thing with Kimi is that he came back and didnt need any warm-up time. Its as if he had never been away. Fantastic.
Q: You were also a comeback kid and you won your third race after your return. In those circumstances, is there a worry you might have lost it?
NL: It depends. Kimi came back as if he hadnt been away for two years. He was fighting immediately at the top. You cannot ask for more.
Q: Does that speak volumes about Raikkonen or about his peers?
NL: About Kimi. Hes the one who makes it happen.
Q: Who would be your ideal world champion this season?
NL: Fernando Alonso. He will score the most points. He will be champion if he carries on like he has done up until now. Why should he change?
Q: And who will finish just behind him?
NL: No idea. I am no soothsayer.
Q: So lets look at the silly season and guess who is going where? Lets start with Ferrari...
NL: No change. That is what I say today. Without knowing what I am talking about! (laughs)
Q: Will Raikkonen stay with Lotus?
NL: Yes. Why should he change teams?
Q: What about Hamilton?
NL: Hamilton will stay with McLaren.
NL: I have no idea what they are up to.
Q: What about Sergio Perez and Ferrari?
NL: I dont see it. Perez would be a risk. Massa is predictable and Alonso likes him, so I say that such a switch is not going to happen.
Q: So you dont see any of the much-talked about switches actually happening?
NL: I dont see any mouth-watering switch being made.
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