Despite being a member of the board at Mercedes, Niki Lauda continues to put forward his opinions regarding driver choices at rival teams, most recently turning his attention to Ferrari.
The Scuderia, which enjoyed a close affinity with Lauda both during his time as world champion and as an advisor once his racing career ended, insists that it is no focusing on its 2014 line-up, but the Austrian believes that there is only one choice to partner Fernando Alonso next season.
“If I were [Ferrari president Luca di] Montezemolo, I would pick Kimi [Raikkonen],” Lauda opined in an interview with Germany's Bild
, “Alonso may not like it, but Ferrari has a problem. While its car is not challenging at the front, he complains and Kimi would be someone for the mechanics to look to. He would give the team a boost, much as Lewis Hamilton has done at Mercedes.”
Admitting that the Finn could find himself left in no man's land while he takes his time deciding on where to drive next season – Red Bull appears to have decided on Daniel Ricciardo, while rumours suggest that Raikkonen is not as close to Lotus as the Enstone team would like to believe – there are few other candidates that Lauda would entrust the second Prancing Horse to in 2014.
While team principal Stefano Domenicali insists that his preference would be for Felipe Massa to remain alongside Alonso [ see separate story
], the rumour mill continues to link the Scuderia with young talents such as Jules Bianchi and Nico Hulkenberg. With the Frenchman more likely to spend another learning year elsewhere, Hulkenberg is emerging as a potential candidate, even though Lauda doesn't believe the German is ready.
“Hulkenberg is not bad, but surely needs another year until he established - and time is something Ferrari does not have,” Lauda insisted, aware that F1 heads into a major technical overhaul this winter.
The three-time world champion is also sceptical about Alonso's chances of matching his tally, suggesting that the title race could be over well before the end of the season.
"Vettel is no longer fighting anyone,” he insisted, “By Abu Dhabi, he will be world champion and that is the third last race [of 2013]. His lead is already big enough after Spa, where he dominated even though the Red Bull was not really suited to the track. His best circuits are still yet to come - Red Bull won't be the favourite at Monza but, on all other tracks, he has the best car....”