Monday 10 April at 10:35 :
Apr.10 (GMM) Niki Lauda has credited Ferrari's technical boss for the boost in performance enjoyed by the Italian team in 2017.
Earlier, the F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman said Ferrari's recent slump was because it was relying too heavily on haphazard Italian engineers.
Told that the fact Mattia Binotto is now in charge of the technical team contradicts his theory, Lauda smiled: "Not at all.
"You consider Binotto to be Italian? Actually he is Swiss, and it shows.
"Ferrari works now because there is a Swiss who organises the Italians, making them work but leaving them free to express their imagination and ideas," he told La Repubblica newspaper.
Lauda said Binotto's contribution may even be bigger than that of team boss Maurizio Arrivabene, because the reason Ferrari has stepped up in 2017 is technical.
"The key figure is Binotto, no doubt," said the great Austrian.
"At least it appears from the outside."
Interestingly, Binotto actually stepped up to his current role after Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne fell out with James Allison.
Allison subsequently moved to Mercedes, where he is now technical boss.
"I don't know what happened between Marchionne and James," Lauda said. "All I can say is that I am very happy to have him with us."
That is despite the fact that, with Allison departing and Binotto stepping up at Ferrari, it is the red team that has taken a big leap forward.
"The truth is that we were waiting for a strong Red Bull and instead we found a strong Ferrari," said Lauda. "At the moment Red Bull are going nowhere."
And he said the respective Mercedes and Ferrari cars are currently very closely matched.
"I have the impression that Ferrari is faster in the heat and we are faster in the cold," said Lauda.