Niki Lauda: Lewis Hamilton praises F1 legend, a year on from his passing
"I forever love Niki. I know he is with us every race in spirit."; Hamilton pays tribute to Lauda, and reflects on 'energised' 2019 Monaco GP
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 20/05/20 11:53am
Lewis Hamilton has paid tribute to the "incredible" Niki Lauda on the one-year anniversary of his death, hailing the F1 legend as having a "huge impact" on him - while also reflecting on an emotional 2019 Monaco GP.
Three-time F1 champion Lauda, who passed away just before last year's Monte Carlo race at the age of 70, was renowned for his on-track speed as well as bravery during a remarkable career, while he was also instrumental in bringing Hamilton to Mercedes as the team's Executive Chairman.
It is a time Hamilton, who has won five of his six titles since leaving McLaren for the Silver Arrows in 2013, remembers fondly.
"Niki is someone who I miss and who I think we all miss dearly," said Hamilton, in a video tribute released by Mercedes. "It is a difficult subject to talk about; someone you are so fond of and someone that ultimately the world has lost but I have only the greatest memories with Niki.
"Probably the most fond memories I have are from my first conversations. We started talking some time in 2012 and I just remember being home during the day, having a call from Niki and he is trying to convince me to come to the team.
"It was very cool to have a call from a world champion and an icon like Niki."
Hamilton and Lauda, famous for his red cap in the Mercedes garage, went on to have a "great relationship".
"Definitely to have the support of someone like Niki demands a huge amount of respect and shows that there is a mutual respect there because obviously I thought perhaps he didn't necessarily value me as a driver but he did," Hamilton explained.
"Then we sat together in Singapore, he came to my room and we had a good conversation and I think that was the time when Niki was like, 'Oh my god, you are just like me in so many ways. We have actually a lot more in common than I anticipated and assumed'.
"Probably he would have thought to himself: 'Actually I shouldn't jump to conclusion about people necessarily'. From then on, we had a really great relationship.
"We would talk often after the races and he would be asking things like: 'Hey, Lewis, what do you need to be better? What do you need?' He was always chasing. If I was to learn anything from him it would be that. As a driver and within a team you naturally have to work together but you have to lead it. You have to lead the team, you have to ask the questions, you have to really dig deep and push everybody."
Hamilton added: "I got to see him in Switzerland not too long before he passed and he was still thinking about racing. All he could think about was 'How do I get back to racing?'
"I think it gets a hold of you, racing, it is something that never leaves you, even if you do stop driving at some stage."
Hamilton then referenced Lauda as one of his main influences during his trophy-laden career.
"I feel really so privileged of having the incredible amount of time that I got to spend with this guy and for the laughs," he stated. "I look at Niki as an incredible supportive role model - such as Ron [Dennis, McLaren boss] - and in the second phase of my career Niki. Two people who have had huge impacts in my career.
"With Niki, bringing me to a team, convincing me to come to a team that at the time had a lot of success to come. I am grateful for the opportunity and forever love Niki. I know he is with us every race in spirit."
Hamilton: Monaco 2019 my 'most energised' race
Lauda passed away on May 20, 2019 - just three days before F1 was hitting the track in Monaco for first practice. On the Sunday, Hamilton capped an emotional week by superbly winning a race in which he was hounded by Red Bull's Max Verstappen throughout.
Hamilton will be looking back on that race, as well as other memorable Monte Carlo moments, on Saturday at 8pm on Sky Sports F1 in a Secret Cinema special with Martin Brundle.
"I just wanted to be a part of helping the team win this race for him," Hamilton said. "There's no better way to signify the hat taking off for him, as he would do to you.
"One little lock-up, one miss of the right braking point, not good enough exit, positioning the car slightly wrong I would have lost the position to Max.
"With Niki involved and everything, it's probably the most energised race I'd ever had."