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Niki Lauda

Lauda to confront Ecclestone over Mercedes blackout


Niki Lauda will travel to London this week to ask F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone about Sunday’s peculiar coverage of the Japanese grand prix.

Mercedes, having cruised to a one-two at Suzuka after its Singapore slump, was not alone in wondering why the silver cars were on screen for precisely 5 minutes and 56 seconds of the almost 90-minute coverage from lights to flag. “I can’t say much but even the pitstop of Lewis (Hamilton) – the leader – we only saw him driving out. We didn’t even see how they changed the wheels,” said Lauda, the F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman.

RTL, the free-to-air broadcaster in Germany, also admitted its concerns publicly. “Of course we would have liked to show our viewers more pictures from the front (of the race), but we have no influence on the international signal. We have to take it as it comes,” spokesman Matthias Bolhofer told Welt newspaper.

The theory immediately after the race was that Ecclestone, whose company Formula One Management controls the so-called television ‘world feed’, had ordered the blackout in retaliation for Mercedes not supplying engines to crisis-struck Red Bull.

Ecclestone, 84, did not make the long-haul trip to Japan, so Austrian Lauda said on Sunday: “I will go to see Bernie and ask him what is the reason. “I am in England on Tuesday so I’ll ask him what was going on and if they had a problem with the camera,” Lauda winked to the German broadcaster RTL.

Asked if he thinks there is any truth to the ‘retaliation’ rumour, Lauda said after a pause: “It is always very difficult to please Bernie all of the time. “I will go (to London) to find out.”

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