Niki Lauda says “practically half the grid” have been in touch with him and Mercedes to offer their services following the surprise retirement of world champion Nico Rosberg, leaving a vacant seat alongside Lewis Hamilton for 2017.
Lauda admitted he took Rosberg’s news badly, saying it had left the team “disorientated and unprepared” for next year, leaving the team in a difficult situation of finding a replacement at such short notice.
“A few hours before the public announcement. He told us by phone,” Lauda told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I took the news badly, I didn’t expect it, nobody in Mercedes thought that he had had enough.
“At first I didn’t believe it. ‘Nico, what you told us, are you kidding? Is it a joke?’ But he said it was all true. Quite incredible.
“When I won the first title I immediately thought about how I would win a second. That’s not the case with Nico. His decision has left us disorientated and unprepared, and all those who contributed to Nico winning the world title took it very badly.”
Whilst Mercedes joked on Twitter that it had received various emails from drivers up and down the grid, Lauda says that is indeed the case, although admitted many are tied up with contracts and therefore they may be forced to take a risk with a young driver.
“Practically half of the grid have offered their servces,” he said. “We have lost a champion – the best driver of 2016. It won’t be easy to replace him because all the drivers of a certain standard have contracts with other teams.
“Taking a young driver is a risk, we don’t know if he will be strong,” he added.