Lauda shocked that staff at Brackley did not drive Mercedes

Niki Lauda (AUT). Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday 8 October 2011.

Niki Lauda

Niki Lauda, Mercedes’ new co-owner and chairman, has admitted he was shocked when he first visited the team’s  Brackley headquarters in the UK.

Also home to BAR, Honda and Brawn staff in recent history, Mercedes team members had driven to work at the wheel of Audis, Hondas and Vauxhalls, triple world champion told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

“We changed that,” said the famous red-capped Lauda. “Now there’s a better employee leasing (scheme).”

Crucially for the recently-underperforming team, however, the really important car – Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s W04 – is also going well.

But Lauda warned: “We are still not at Red Bull’s level.”

Formula 1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, however, senses that the direction at Mercedes – with Lauda and fellow Austrian Toto Wolff in charge – is now right.

“I believe they know what changes are needed,” the Briton told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

“They have the same rules, the same tyres as everyone else, one of the best drivers — maybe the best driver in Hamilton. And they have the best engine.

“If I had a team, I would use a Mercedes engine. What else do they need?”

Ecclestone also backs further personnel shakeups, saying “They will go that route if it is necessary”.

The next domino to fall is probably Ross Brawn, the current boss. Indeed, asked who he now regards as the ultimate boss of the Mercedes team, Ecclestone does not plump for the current team principal.

“Obviously not (Daimler CEO Dietrich) Zetsche,” said Ecclestone. “Not Niki, not Brawn. For me it’s Toto Wolff.

“Niki’s position is more political, while Toto needs to put the whole team together.”