Lewis Hamilton has paid tribute to Niki Lauda, praising his importance in Mercedes’ dominant spell in Formula 1, on the anniversary of the Austrian’s passing.
Three-time World Champion Lauda joined Mercedes as its Non-Executive Chairman in 2012 and was instrumental in recruiting Hamilton to the team for 2013.
Mercedes has won all Formula 1 titles on offer since 2014 and Lauda remained a key figure in its success, prior to his death in May 2019.
On the anniversary of his death Mercedes released a video featuring tributes from senior personnel, with Hamilton labelling Lauda as “someone who I think we all miss dearly. It is a difficult subject to talk about.
“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.
“Then we sat together in Singapore [in 2012], 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.
“He was always thinking about how we can improve. The greatest sign from Niki was if you did the job, he would take off his hat. That was for him saying: ‘Well done!’
“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 that Lauda is with Mercedes “in spirit” at each event.
“Niki convinced me to come to a team that at the time had a lot of success to come,” he said.
“To a place where you are welcomed into an environment, given space to grow and given the space to be you and not try to change you.
“Whilst it takes people some time to get used to the concept of what is different in life, I think a lot of people are afraid of what is different but you should never shy away from what is different. That is often one of the key elements that helps bring change.
“I am grateful for the opportunity and forever love Niki. I know he is with us every race in spirit.”