Lauda faults Mansell return
THE mid-season return of Nigel Mansell to Formula One racing may have a negative effect on Williams-Renault's hopes of snatching the world drivers' championship.
This is the belief of another former world champion, Austrian Niki Lauda, who is in Hong Kong to promote the Ferrari F355 - the newest model to hit the territory's streets.
Lauda, the world champion with Ferrari in 1975 and 1977 and again with McLaren in 1984, said Mansell's return could prevent his Williams teammate Damon Hill from winning the title.
But even more significantly, he said, it is preventing rising star David Coulthard from being given the opportunity to prove his worth.
'Mansell already had a contract with Williams so what they were doing by making him fulfil the contract was to put out a good young guy like Coulthard.
'I don't know that was worthwhile doing. Hill needs all the support he can get to win the championship, but with many driver changes at Williams, this task is now uncertain.' Briton Hill trails Benetton driver Michael Schumacher, of Germany, by five points in the drivers' series with the Japanese and Australian Grands Prix still to be raced.
Mansell has just returned to Formula One after two years in IndyCar racing.
Lauda expects Schumacher, who was banned for two races this season, to go on and win his first drivers' world title.
'If Schumacher was not banned, he would have won the title already,' said Lauda.
Like everyone involved in world motor racing, Lauda mourned the death of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian who was killed at Imola's San Marino Grand Prix this year when he crashed his Williams into a wall at more than 300 k/mh.
He said Senna's crash, one day after Austrian Roland Ratzenberger was killed at the same track, dragged the sport 10 years back into the days when death was an annual occurrence in Formula One racing.
'After Senna's accident, it suddenly went back to my era, when every year there was someone killed. But I think they are now doing some positive things to make it safer.' Lauda, who makes regular visits to the territory as a pilot with his airline, Lauda Air, will leave the territory today after his promotional work with Ferrari.
The Italian manufacturers are today organising a Ferrari parade dedicated to their fans in Hong Kong with more than 80 cars in a procession from the Omni Hong Kong Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, through the new Cross Harbour Tunnel and ending at Repulse Bay.