Niki Lauda has echoed the F1 paddock's sentiments that the Australian Grand Prix showed the sport in the best possible light while warning Mercedes it must be active to the growing threat of Ferrari.
The non-executive chairman of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team says his squad needs to understand why both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton suffered poor starts in Melbourne which enabled the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to charge ahead.
Despite Mercedes' fightback, helped by the team's opportunism during the red flag stoppage to switch Rosberg on to medium tyres and therefore not need to pit for the rest of the race, Lauda is adamant Ferrari has closed the gap significantly during the winter and is expecting tough battles throughout the season.
“It was an exciting race first of all,” Lauda said. “I have never seen anything like this in the last three years and I have to say, to be fair to the sport, the race was half decided at the start because Ferrari did an incredible start with both cars.
“We screwed up and we have to find out why, but then the race took its way. I think it was the best start ever in Formula One, and what a race we have showed to everybody. I'm afraid we will see more of this because Ferrari is quick, no question about it. It's going to be exciting and I'm looking forward to the next one.”
Lauda also says it is a testament to the safety advances in F1 which saw Fernando Alonso come out of his smash with Esteban Gutierrez unscathed.
The McLaren-Honda driver ran into the rear of Gutierrez's Haas under breaking, sending the Spaniard into a barrel roll in the gravel before stopping upside down wedged into the barriers.
“Crashes where you get out and walk away, they don't really mean anything to you,” he said. “Thank God nothing happened and it shows again how strong these cars are. If you look at the upside down car it looked pretty screwed up I have to say.”