F1 superstar’s emotional message to legend
Lewis Hamilton has paid a fulsome tribute to his "bright light" Niki Lauda after the Mercedes chairman and F1 legend passed away aged 70, saying he wouldn't have joined the Silver Arrows without him.
Lauda took on the role of Mercedes' non-executive chairman in 2012 and, along with then-team boss Ross Brawn, is credited with convincing Hamilton to join the team for 2013 from McLaren.
Hamilton posted a heartfelt statement on Instagram: "My buddy, I am struggling to believe you are gone.
"I will miss our conversations, our laughs, the big hugs after winning races together. It's truly been an honour working alongside you over these past seven years. I wouldn't have even been in this team if it wasn't for you. God rest your soul.
"Thank you for being a bright light in my life. I'll always be here for your family should they ever need me. Love you man. Your friend always, Lewis."
Sky F1's Ted Kravitz insisted that Lauda had a big influence on Hamilton, and Hamilton on him, claiming: "He could see greatness in others. Lauda was instrumental in getting Hamilton to sign for Mercedes, because he could see a little bit of him, that little bit of killer instinct that Hamilton has.
"Niki could see a kindred spirit in Lewis. He could see somebody who was able to turn it on, but also a thinker as well, he thought about his craft to get the best out of himself, the car and the team as well. We'll never see Niki's like again."
Since the start of 2014, the season after Hamilton joined, Mercedes have won every world title available and Toto Wolff, Mercedes' current team principal, says his fellow Austrian's contribution to their continued success was invaluable.
"Our Mercedes team has also lost a guiding light," Wolff said.
"As a teammate over the past six and a half years, Niki was always brutally honest - and utterly loyal. It was a privilege to count him among our team and moving to witness just how much it meant to him to be part of the team's success.
"Whenever he walked the floor in Brackley and Brixworth, or delivered one of his famous motivational speeches, he brought an energy that nobody else could replicate.
"Niki, you are quite simple irreplaceable, there will never be another like you. It was our honour to call you our chairman - and my privilege to call you my friend."
Having successfully traversed the roles of driver, team manager, advisor and businessman over five decades in F1, Wolff says Lauda will "always remain one of the greatest legends of our sport".
"He combined heroism, humanity and honesty inside and outside the cockpit," Wolff added.
"His passing leaves a void in Formula 1. We haven't just lost a hero who staged the most remarkable comeback ever seen, but also a man who brought precious clarity and candour to modern Formula 1. He will be greatly missed as our voice of common sense."
FORMULA 1 REMEMBERS A LEGEND
Martin Brundle and Damon Hill believe Niki Lauda will be remembered as a "remarkable individual" whose impact and influence transcended F1.
Lauda passed away aged 70 on Monday night, with the F1 community uniting to pay tribute to one of the sport's most popular and legendary characters.
"He was a remarkable individual, both in the racing car and out. He was a man who transcended Formula 1," said Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle.
"Even if you're not necessarily a Formula 1 fan you knew about Niki Lauda, three times a Formula 1 world champion."
Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, said: "Everyone who was in motor racing knew Niki's personality as one of the most potent individuals in the sport.
"Not only as a driver, he was highly intellectual, he was stoic and someone who was eminently quotable all the time.
"It's very sad to hear we've lost Niki but so many people have been affected positively by having known him."
While the Austrian's success behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car - three drivers' titles, 25 race wins and 24 pole positions - place him among the greatest drivers of all time, Lauda's achievements off the track also marked him out.
"He was a fighter, an incredible individual and great company," said Brundle
"He was also a great entrepreneur, with his airline and his involvement with Formula 1 teams, most recently Mercedes-Benz. A man who was very much responsible for convincing Lewis Hamilton to go to Mercedes in this era.
"So many things have been going through my head since I've woken up to this news about how Niki interacted with Formula 1 and the gladiatorial way that he won three world championships. I don't think he ever had the absolute speed of a Senna or a Schumacher, but he got his head down and took on the best and beat them."
Hill added: "He was one of the few men who could sit down with Enzo Ferrari and Bernie Ecclestone, look them straight in the eye and they knew he meant business.
"He was a remarkable individual in every way."