F1 Hungarian Grand Prix: Niki Lauda denies Sebastian Vettel rumour as Lewis Hamilton sets the early pace

Lauda denies Vettel rumours in no uncertain terms as Hamilton races ahead

at the Hungaroring

If Lewis Hamilton really was remotely concerned or destabilised by feeble rumours being put around here on Thursday to the effect that his Mercedes team was offering lucrative blandishments to Sebastian Vettel to drive for them from 2016, he showed no sign of it yesterday.

Hungaroring is one of his talisman tracks – he has won here four times since his rookie season in 2007 – and somehow it just clicks with his driving style.

He was fastest in yesterday’s two practice sessions for tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix – albeit only by a couple of tenths of a second from rival and team-mate Nico Rosberg, who recently secured his own future with the team at least until 2016, possibly longer.

Hamilton received pithy and unflinching support from his biggest fan in the paddock, Niki Lauda, the triple world champion who, as non-executive chairman of Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, lured him there in the first place at a time when everyone thought he was insane to leave McLaren.

“Absolute bullshit,” said Lauda succinctly when asked about the Vettel rumours. “I can tell you that nobody from this team had spoken with him. Why would we want to? We already have the two best drivers. Why would we want to change that?”

Earlier in the week, however, the Austrian’s legendary candour had got him into trouble. The man who won world championships with Ferrari in 1975 and 1977, alongside sporting chief Luca di Montezemolo (now the Scuderia’s president), was obliged to apologise to him via La Gazetta dello Sport for derogatory remarks he had made in the wake of Sunday’s German Grand Prix when he described Ferrari’s current car as “shit”.

“I was wrong and I do not make any excuses,” Lauda said. Yesterday morning he also apologised to team principal Marco Mattiacci in the Ferrari pit here.

“Everybody is free to make comments,” Mattiacci said. “I have the utmost respect for Niki Lauda. For me, he is an iconic figure from my childhood, and in particular for Ferrari.

He came to our pit to apologise. I honestly felt very uncomfortable that I should receive an excuse from such a champion who has been put in the middle of something.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix “It’s clear he is a friend of Ferrari, and again I have the utmost respect for Niki, so chapter closed.”

Lauda had the last laugh, however, for once again, Mercedes’ performance on the track was uncompromising. Ferrari, together with Red Bull, McLaren and Williams, battled hard in their wake on another short track where further work was needed initially to hone the cars to behave themselves without their now-banned front and rear interconnected (FRIC) suspension systems.

There was not a lot of grip either, as the track had yet to receive a rubber coating from the passage of racing cars.

But yet again nobody else was really in Mercedes’ league.

Hamilton, sounding relaxed, admitted: “We struggled with poor grip on track today. I don’t know if that’s down to the tyres or the track itself but it was quite bad throughout both sessions.

Read more: Hamilton hungry for Hungary success
Mercedes open talks with Hamilton after securing Rosberg
Ecclestone announces F1 return to Mexico

"It’s going to be important to get a good grid position on Saturday as it will be difficult to follow cars on this track and it’s always tough to overtake here.

“We have some work to do overnight to ensure we get the best set-up for the weekend as we’re not fully comfortable with the car just yet, but our race pace looked OK.”

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea