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
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas