F1 drew its 2015 season to a close amid the spectacular Abu Dhabi night skyline and the distinct smell of political controversy. "There is a lot of self-interest and a lot of desire for power," summarised F1 legend Niki Lauda.
Lauda, a triple world champion, doubles as a co-owner and chairman of the dominant Mercedes team, amid rumours that all is not well in his current relationship with fellow silver-clad bigwig Toto Wolff. The pair dismissed those stories this weekend, and in fact were also hand-in-hand last week regarding the F1 Commission, when the proposed 'cheap engine' for 2017 was thrown out.
"It was not about costs or anything like that," Lauda told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. "Such a massive intervention in the current rules was like a bad joke. The background was political power," he added.
Some might say it was F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt who were trying to flex their muscles amid the power currently wielded by Mercedes and Ferrari. "I perceived the whole discussion as unnecessary and stupid," Lauda continued. "If you have a sport in a negative trend, you cannot correct it by manipulating. If you try that, after two years you have nothing left at all."
And so in the end, compromise was the order of the day, with the powerful carmakers agreeing to think again about the current rules in time for 2018. On that front, Lauda agrees: "The smaller teams must be able to afford the engines. We have to help them."
His Mercedes colleague Wolff agrees: "I've always said that it is right for the FIA to want to lower the price of the engines for the medium and small teams. That's perfectly fine," he told the German news agency SID.
"These engines we have now may be complex, but they are state of the art. Can we make it more favourable for the small teams? We are working on that. Can we also work on the entertainment factor and the sound of the engines? Yes, we should," added Wolff. (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing