Niki Lauda expects Nico Rosberg to recover from the blow of losing his Formula One title duel with Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton by coming back even more determined next year. "Nico will fight back and Nico has the potential upwards," the team's non-executive chairman said after power unit problems at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix dashed Rosberg's outside hopes.
"There is still something to come out of his speed and performance and technical inputs he gives. So next year's going to be fun again between the two. And I hope nobody else will interfere."
Rosberg ended the year with five wins to Hamilton's 11 but challenged the Briton right to the very end of a season that at one point seemed to have damaged their friendship irreparably. However, they shook hands and embraced after Sunday's race, with both saying complimentary things about the other.
"Lewis and Nico from lap to lap from the beginning of the season pushed each other," Lauda, himself a triple champion, told reporters. "The most important is that both drivers developed the car with their driving style...everything we did was absolutely the same for both of them and therefore we have gone so quick."
Despite the sportsmanship shown in Abu Dhabi, and signs that the drivers' relationship had entered a new phase, Lauda was sure the tensions would remain. "I never liked (Alain) Prost, I never liked (Clay) Regazzoni, I never liked (John) Watson when it came down to racing, so this is normal," he said of his former team mates. "But there is a certain respect of each other," he added. "It's going to be easier next year because they respect each other on their level of performance."
Lauda was key to persuading Hamilton to leave McLaren at the end of 2012, when Mercedes was still something of a gamble and some pundits were suggesting the 2008 champion should stay put.
The Austrian said that made him especially proud.
"Two and a half years ago I asked him to leave McLaren and come to Mercedes," he recalled.
"I said 'I am going to guarantee you a world championship'. And second year driving here, here it is. So I am happy because I didn't break my promises."
(Editing by Ian Chadband)