Mario Andretti has doffed his hat to Niki Lauda for not imposing team orders at Merc and also praised Lewis Hamilton's attitude and mental strength...
Former World Champion Mario Andretti has doffed his hat to Niki Lauda for not imposing team orders at Mercedes and also praised Lewis Hamilton's attitude and mental strength.
The 2014 Drivers Championship appears to be straight fight between Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg and it's the latter who is currently leading the standings by 11 points even though he has won one less race than the Briton.
However, there have been plenty of twists and turns in this year's Championship battle with the tension between the pair often threatening to boil over. The Merc team bosses had their hands full in Hungary last time out when Hamilton was told to let Rosberg through, but ignored the request.
Lauda, the Mercedes non-executive director, later admitted they got it wrong and has insisted they won't impose team orders.
In an interview with the official Formula 1 website, 1978 World Champion Andretti says he has been impressed with the way Lauda and co have handled the pressure, and also admitted he is "rooting a little bit more" for Hamilton.
"Here's the thing: it could have been a very boring situation if only one of the two of them took off, a bit like when Michael Schumacher was at Ferrari and you just knew who was going to win," he said.
"Now it's nothing like that, and that's a blessing. It's early in the season, but the fact that they've been devoid of any real team orders - mainly because Mercedes are in a position of luxury - means that the two drivers have been able to steal points from each other and it's still likely that one of them is going to be World Champion.
"My hat goes off to Niki Lauda for saying 'no team orders'. That's what has kept the interest alive, regardless of whether they're dominating or not. We've seen some epic racing between the two of them.
"I have a tendency to root a little bit more for Lewis, mainly because of the bad luck he's had mechanically. When anything happens, it happens to his car and yet he has kept his chin up. And look at the performances he's had: starting from the pits in Hungary - it was fabulous to see [his drive]. How could you not root for him? He never gave up; he kept his attitude on a positive level. It could have been a total disaster if he'd had his chin down and been beaten mentally, but he's shown a lot of character this season and if he wins the Championship it will be really, really well deserved."
That doesn't mean the American feels Rosberg would be an unworthy World Champion should he pull it off.
"Nico has shown himself to be a very solid, worthy competitor," he said. "He's got great racecraft and he would be a worthy Champion as well, no question. He's held up his side brilliantly - that's what makes it so good.
"Both Nico and Lewis are capable winners - you can't take anything away from one or the other, it's just on Lewis' side you hate to see what he has had to overcome at times. More than once he's had some mechanical issues that seem to have afflicted him more than [Nico]. But Nico has definitely shown that he has the class of a Champion. Mercedes are very fortunate to have two drivers like that. It's going to be very interesting to see how the second half of the season unfolds, but it has a lot of promise, no question about it."