Niki Lauda doesn't think Nico Rosberg will ever return to Formula 1
Mercedes' non-executive chairman Niki Lauda believes the 2016 Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg will not return to the sport ever in the future.
The German driver made a shocking announcement on the day of the 2016 FIA Prize Giving Gala ceremony on December 2 of his immediate retirement from F1.
The Mercedes outfit were left to find a replacement in a few weeks time for its 2017 title assault, which they did in the form of Valtteri Bottas, having poached him from Williams.
Eleven months since his retirement, Rosberg has mostly immersed himself in a family life and has shown no signs of returning or even think about that. He only did one-off TV role with Sky Sports F1 in last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.
The changes in the 32-year-old has led Lauda to believe that Rosberg is gone for good. "He looks very happy, pleased. He makes no sign of any regret, he seems ok," said Lauda in an interview to Graham Bensinger.
When asked if he sees any likelihood of him returning to F1 again. "Never, never, if he continues like this, absolutely never. Because he is so into his family. He seems to be so happy getting now the second kid. He's a different person.
"He took it all up because he wants to prove to himself that he can be a world champion like his father and I think as soon as he achieved it, he's has no more motivation to continue," he explained.
Lauda stressed again that there was no sign of Rosberg wanting to retire and that it was a shock news in December for them, as much as it was for any of the fans. "There was no sign whatsoever," he said.
"I think he retired really because the pressure of Lewis [Hamilton] was too hard for him to cope with in the future. Because Lewis is a tough cookie as a driver.
"And then he won the race [2016 Abu Dhabi GP] with all his tricks, Lewis holding back and the others coming in and it was tough the whole year because Lewis was the world champion to get beaten, it was hard work."
Lauda also cleared the air regarding his criticism of Rosberg's decision and subsequent late announcement, leaving Mercedes of little time to find a replacement. The Austrian understood's Rosberg's decision, but felt he should have discussed it with the team because Lauda and Toto Wolff were in charge of 1200 jobs in Mercedes.
"From my point of view, it was completely normal [criticism] because I am in charge with Toto Wolff of the whole team and we get hit by our brand new world champion in November that he's going to retire put us in a very difficult situation.
"Because we need the strongest pair of drivers to continue to win and he left us just in the last moment. Even if I respect his decision, the timing for us was really bad and therefore criticised him from the team point of view that if we do not find a quick replacement, who is at least as good as he was, we could have been in trouble.
"And I have to say my criticism is right, he called me couple of times, look it is my view being in charge of the team. As a racing driver I understand, I retired once in the same way and then he [Brabham] had no driver, so I did bad things to him too. So, if he would have criticised me, I would have to respect it."
Post the 1979 season, Lauda decided to retire from F1 after nine years in the sport, to follow his second dream of flying running the Lauda Air, before making a return to F1 in the 1982 season for four years.
In the same interview, Lauda revealed of what happened in the fallout of the incident between Hamilton and Rosberg in the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona, when the two came together on Lap 1 itself to retire from the event.
The already-strained relation between the two drivers only went worse after the incident, with Lauda putting the sole blame on Hamilton for the 'aggressive' move going inside of Rosberg in the corner with no space whatsoever.
"It was very difficult [to handle both]," said Lauda. "In the beginning it was fine, but as time went by they got more competitive against each other, because the last three years we had the Mercedes car which was quicker than any other car and we only raced each other.
"The competition was only between Nico and Lewis for the championship. We had a huge competition between the team [even on the inside], which sometimes in the end was too much, but we put some regulations in.
"We told them -- especially in Barcelona when the pushed each other off the track -- we said this was unacceptable for Mercedes and one of you guys has to win [the race] you cannot push each other off.
"We put some rules in, you are not allowed to [do that] and you have to pay a penalty if you do it again or we will think of releasing you from your contract, because we are team players here and we cannot destroy each other. This was the thing. Toto came up with some good rules and we had peace again. We fought hard and the accidents got reduced between them."
Lauda added that he and Hamilton had a talk in Ibiza after Barcelona, where the two world champions met privately to discuss it face to face, as to why Lauda thought Hamilton was to be blamed. Putting his racing driver's hat on, Lauda said to Hamilton that he could have waited for another corner to pass for the lead, since Rosberg would have been on less power when Hamilton would have the chance to easily overtake him.
"The big question [in Barcelona's meeting] was whose fault was it?" Lauda said. "For me it was clear because Lewis was too aggressive going to the right, hit the grass, couldn't stop his car and then hit him off. I said if I have to choose between the two it's more Lewis' fault than Nico's fault.
"And Lewis did not appreciate that, because he was of a different opinion. He said, 'Why do you criticize me?' I said, 'Excuse me. I cannot accept that you guys crash and then we have nothing and nobody's fault.
"For me it has to be somebody's fault.' And then Lewis really got upset. Nico said, 'Yes, it was your part too, you moved to the inside. Why did you not leave room?' He said, 'Why should I, I was doing the race'."
Lauda said the relation between Rosberg and Hamilton was so bad that they didn't even said a 'hello' to each other. "They had no relation, which is always bad. They were so bad that they didn't even say hello in the morning.
"I don't expect them to have breakfast together if they don't like each other, I don't expect them to sit down and have breakfast, but the relationship was really bad. It affected Lewis mainly and Nico [as well], so it was fine but not easy," he said.
The two have since then moved on, especially after Rosberg's retirement. Even in the Mercedes camp, Lauda feels of harmony between Hamilton and Bottas so far - with the two drivers showing of good solidarity, more than ever.
The fine gesture from Hamilton in Hungarian GP surprised many, but Lauda is certain if there will be a time for Bottas to help his teammate against Sebastian Vettel in the 2017 title battle, the Finn will come to the British driver's aide.