Lewis Hamilton finally let go of his emotions publicly for Niki Lauda to the press in F1 Monaco GP as he also presented his mindset on Wednesday.
The death of three-time F1 champion Lauda on Monday shocked the motorsport world, more so the Mercedes team and Hamilton in particular, considering the time the Austrian spent with the team over the years as its non-executive chairman.
After his stints with Ferrari and Jaguar, Lauda took upon on the role with Mercedes alongside Toto Wolff as the German manufacturer’s fortune changed for good. He also played a key role in luring Hamilton along with Ross Brawn.
There is no doubting that the British racer was deeply affected by the loss, as his request to skip Wednesday’s press conference for Monaco GP was granted by the FIA with Valtteri Bottas taking his place. In fact, Hamilton made no media appearance at all.
Naturally, it became a topic of discussion with certain section calling him out for that while many supported his call. Team boss Wolff spoke to the media on Thursday and relayed his grief while also defending the personal call taken by Hamilton.
With Monaco GP pole position in the bag after a hefty fight against Bottas, the British racer was pumped up and finally opened up on Lauda as he recalled the good times spent with him, to the extent to state that he would have been a one-time champion if not for Lauda.
“Personally, it has been quite a difficult weekend, so obviously the goal here was always to get pole and it’s such a difficult circuit,” started Hamilton. “The other day, I didn’t feel like I was really ready I think, Toto also felt fairly similar and maybe Valtteri as well.
“There was time for us to really dig deep into our feelings because we were still reminiscing over the lots of experiences that we’ve had. Me and Toto have had multiple conversations this week and also myself and Birgit.
“I was really in touch with Niki a lot, through this past eight months. We would be sending videos back and forth to each other and it was always difficult because some days he looked good and he was really perky and ‘I’m coming back, I’m coming strong and I’ll be at this race’ and then there’s other days where he had immediately lost a lot of weight.
“So, it was definitely tough from afar and then I was very fortunate that I got to see him and when I found out the other day, I was just thinking because I was here at home in Monaco, I was down by the pool where I live and I remember getting a call from Niki in 2012.
“We had never really spoken – me and Niki – so he’s on the phone and he’s like, ‘no you should come to Mercedes, this is where you need to be’ and I remember that was the first time we started talking.
“I had always talked about how Ross was the convincing element in me coming to the team because when I went and sat down with him, he explained what the team was doing, where it was going, their plans, Mercedes and I truly believed in that vision.
“But Niki was the one that brought it to me and got it across the line. And in all of these years, he’s kind of been my partner in crime: all negotiations, when we were pushing for improvements on the car, he was such a racer and even though he wasn’t racing himself he would come up to us and say ‘what could we do better, what needs to be improved on the car?’
“You would say front suspension or it’s downforce or it’s the engine and he would say OK and he will go to the factory and he’ll be giving them arseholes like he would always say! So yeah, ultimately he was part of the process of changing my life.
“If I hadn’t had the call all that time ago, I would be a one time World Champion now and probably 22 wins whatever it was when I was at McLaren and I sit here a five time World Champion and I definitely feel like I owe him a lot.
“So it was very very difficult at the beginning of the week. Everyone’s posting pictures and I don’t feel like I have to conform to how everyone operates. I took my time and again, coming here on Wednesday I didn’t feel like it was the time to do that.
“But we all love him and miss him and it’s hard to imagine or to think that when someone goes, you’re never going to get to see them again or to talk to them or have conversations but I’ve got the greatest of memories with him so he will live on in all our memories.”
While Hamilton did leave a message on social media remembering Lauda and also asked fans to post videos which he re-posted later on, the above tribute is his first full length remembrance of the fallen legend.