Niki Lauda has admitted that Ross Brawn’s departure from the Mercedes Formula 1 team has left a big hole that new chiefs Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe must fill quickly.
Wolff and Lowe will be in charge of Mercedes from the start of next season following Brawn’s decision to step away from the outfit at the end of this year.
Lauda, who is a non-executive director of Mercedes, tried to convince Brawn to stay but in the end could not win him over.
Speaking at the AUTOSPORT Awards after receiving a Gregor Grant trophy for his lifetime achievements in motor racing, Lauda said that losing Brawn meant the pressure was now on the new structure to step up.
“Ross was certainly the mastermind of the whole team – and when he goes fishing the new people have to fill a big hole,” he told AUTOSPORT.
“So Paddy and Toto have to do a real good job to continue what Ross has started, especially this year, where he came from with the team being fifth to now second. The air at the top gets thinner and thinner.”
When asked if he believed Wolff and Lowe had the qualities needed to do the job that was required now, Lauda said: “Yes. They have to. And they will.
“Paddy with his technical background is ideal for the team, as well as Toto from the commercial side. They have the potential and I forced them to do it.”
Lauda also said that he was encouraged that Brawn had agreed not to totally sever his ties with the outfit and that he could be called for advice going forward.
“I have a very good relationship with him,” said Lauda. “I am in constant contact with him. I hope he doesn’t go too long fishing in the beginning and I cannot call him for some advice. He is, let’s say, leaving in good spirits with me personally.
“But the new guys are now in charge and they have to show what they can do.”