Niki Lauda has stated that Nico Rosberg will not be missed at Mercedes for the upcoming season because Valtteri Bottas ‘is at least as good’.
Rosberg’s shock decision to bow out of Formula One as the reigning World Champion surprised many and caught the Silver Arrows team off-guard. It leaves an open title fight without a title defender.
When asked whether Mercedes will miss Rosberg next season, Niki Lauda said,
“Not at all. When he’s gone, he’s gone.
We had to come to terms with it and we did. We are now looking to the future and do not mourn Nico. Replacing ‘a Rosberg’ is not easy. But the combination of speed and experience spoke for Bottas.
He now has the opportunity to drive the best Formula One car in the world. This always gives a racing driver a boost and also boosts his own personal performance. I believe Bottas is at least as good as Rosberg.
Nico has improved so much because of the team and the car. We have won three Constructors’ titles and Hamilton before won two Drivers’ World Championships [with us in 2014 and 2015]. With the Silver Arrow, Nico had the car and potential in his hands. So you have to see it as a combination of Rosberg and Mercedes. Rosberg alone would not be World Champion – it is the car, team and Rosberg together.”
– Niki Lauda
Rosberg’s decision to leave was understandable in that he wanted to spend more time with his family. Even as the World Champion, he doesn’t owe anyone a follow-up title defence, although Lewis Hamilton will probably miss the opportunity of beating the German driver next season.
Rosberg’s departure could be perceived as yellow-bellied, but really he’s been in the Mercedes team for the long-haul, putting in the donkey work alongside Michael Schumacher at a time when the Silver Arrow was more likely to wear its tyres to the bone than win a Grand Prix.
One comparable look at Bottas’ racing record provides enough insight to determine whether the Finn is a suitable replacement. In a word – yes. Looking at his consistency in 2014 and 2015 at a time when Williams were firmly in the top three is enough to believe that he will win races in a front-runner. There is no way that whatever Mercedes produces will be beyond the Finns scope. The real question is, where will he stand relative to Lewis Hamilton?