Nov.28 (GMM) Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda on Saturday defied talk of a personal rift by walking through the Abu Dhabi paddock holding hands.
It was an odd sight as the pair, and representatives of the sport’s other engine manufacturers, left a meeting held to discuss the future of the rules.
‘Sources’ and unnamed ‘friends’ had hinted at a looming relationship breakdown between Mercedes’ Austrian duo and team co-owners, so the latest theory is that Red Bull’s Christian Horner or Bernie Ecclestone had put the rumour out, amid political rancour.
But the bigger intrigue on Saturday was Mercedes’ request to the stewards demanding clarification over certain “ambiguities” in the rules about customer cars.
The unmentioned suggestion is that the reigning world champions smell a rat in Ferrari’s relationship with the new American outfit Haas, which many suspect is really a satellite or ‘B’ team to circumvent the rules.
The FIA stewards on Saturday said they would try to make a ruling on the matter, specifically related to the outsourcing of restricted wind tunnel and CFD time, “prior to the start of the race on Sunday”.
Mercedes’ Wolff, however, insisted it is not an attack on Ferrari.
“We are looking for a clarification; it is not something that is directed at a particular team,” he is quoted by Speed Week.
“We just found that the rules are not clear enough.”
And Lauda told Auto Motor und Sport: “A request for clarification of what is allowed and what is not must be done at a racing event.
“This is the last chance, otherwise we would have to wait three months for the first race of 2016,” he added.
Other meetings were taking place in Abu Dhabi. Wolff – curiously – met earlier with his currently Honda-powered McLaren counterparts Eric Boullier and Ron Dennis.
And Bernie Ecclestone met once again with CVC chief Donald Mackenzie and Renault representative Jerome Stoll on Saturday, amid the threat that the French carmaker could pull the plug on F1 over a dispute about bonus income payments.
The bottom line is that if the F1 supremo does not agree to release the money, Renault could leave the sport and throw the futures of Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Lotus into doubt.
“Pulling out of F1 completely is on the table if we don’t manage to convince the board that F1 is a meaningful investment for Renault,” Renault’s F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul warned in Abu Dhabi, according to the BBC.
“We are talking about a 10-year commitment to the sport, which is not cheap.”