Paddy Lowe admits losing Nico Rosberg will set Mercedes back due to the late timing of his decision to retire from Formula One.
Rosberg shocked many by retiring from F1 with immediate effect having won the drivers’ championship for the first time in Abu Dhabi. The German has been part of the Mercedes driver line-up since the team returned to F1 in 2010, first as team-mate to Michael Schumacher and latterly Lewis Hamilton.
Lowe says the departure of Rosberg is a key change due to the success he has helped deliver for Mercedes, and will have some impact over the winter while the team evaluates replacements.
“From an engineering point of view, losing Nico is like losing a corner of the car,” Lowe is quoted as saying by Autosport. “How are you going to recover that?
“We’ll be putting a lot of work in to that over the next few weeks, making sure we make the best decision possible.
“It is difficult because from a technical, engineering point of view we exist as an organisation to go out there and earn points for championships. That’s a very, very tough process to go through – we’ve got some very, very tough competitors.
“Losing such a critical component in the team as Nico at this stage is something that will set us back a bit. To break the records we’ve done in the last three seasons you need a great car and a great team to produce that car.
“But you need fantastic drivers to go out there and score those points at a very, very low error rate.”
Pascal Wehrlein says he is “ready” to take Nico Rosberg’s seat at Mercedes despite only having one year of F1 racing under his belt.
The Mercedes youngster won the DTM title in 2015 and was then handed a Manor race seat this year, impressing in his debut season as he scored the team’s only point in Austria and reached Q2 on four occasions. Wehrlein also carried out a lot of the 2017 tyre testing for Mercedes in conjunction with Pirelli this year.
With Rosberg making the shock decision to retire after winning this year’s championship, Mercedes has a seat available and Wehrlein says he is prepared to make the step up.
“One season in F1 is not a lot but I feel ready for the job and confident,” said Wehrlein said at the Autosport Awards. “I’m sure Toto [Wolff]’s phone is overheating after Friday!
“I’ve done most days with the 2017 tyres and I think it’s very important to have that experience.”
Reflecting on his season as a whole, Wehrlein says it shouldn’t be overlooked that he had to adapt quickly having raced in DTM before his debut year in F1.
“It’s been a fantastic season for me. Many highlights, many times in Q2, one point in Austria and especially after three years in DTM coming back to single seaters there were many things to learn for me.”
Max Verstappen is showing his rivals in F1 “how racing should be”, according to Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko.
The 19-year-old has made a big impact since making his debut for Toro Rosso at the start of the 2015 season, being promoted to Red Bull this year and winning in Barcelona.
Often fighting with Mercedes or Ferrari at the front of the field, Verstappen’s driving has come under scrutiny and the FIA clarified regulations to outlaw moving under braking after some of the Dutch driver’s defensive manoeuvres.
However, Marko believes Verstappen is showing the current drivers how racing used to be in the past, comparing his arrival in the sport to the likes of Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.
“What I see is that he brings a completely new approach to the ‘reigning establishment’!” Marko told the official F1 website. “He shows them again how racing should be – how it was in the past.
“I remember when guys like Senna and Schumacher came, they also had a different approach and were a shock awakening for the establishment of their time. They also were criticised massively.
“Now we have a young, hungry, sexy young driver, with a devil-may-care attitude about the spoils of former champions – whether they have won once, twice, three times or even four times.”
And Marko says the comparisons with the likes of Senna also stretch to Verstappen’s wet weather skills after his performance in Brazil.
“I saw a similar drive from Max at the Norisring in F3 some years ago: again in a league of his own – with a line of his own. In F1 I would compare his Brazil ride to Senna at Donington.”