Lewis Hamilton: I'd be a one-time champion without Niki Lauda
Lewis Hamilton has paid tribute to Niki Lauda’s influence in his own career, believing that he would be a one-time champion without the Austrian’s help.
Hamilton left McLaren for Mercedes at the end of 2012, with Lauda – who had joined the team earlier in the year – deemed a key player in convincing Hamilton of the long-term potential.
Since joining Mercedes at the start of 2013 Hamilton has taken 55 wins and four world titles to seal his place among the greatest drivers in Formula 1 history.
Lauda died on Monday, aged 70, and Hamilton – who had not previously spoken publicly about Lauda – delved into detail about the influence of the three-time champion.
“I was just thinking because I was here at home in Monaco and down by the pool,” said Hamilton after taking pole position in Monaco.
“I remember getting a call from Niki in 2012 and we had never really spoken before and he was on the phone and saying ‘you should come to Mercedes, this is where you need to be’ and I remember that was the first time we’d started talk.
“I always talked about how Ross [Brawn] was the convincing element in me coming to the team because when I sat down with him he explained what the team was doing and the plan for Mercedes and I truly believed in that vision but Niki was the one that brought it to me and really got it across the line.
“All of these years he’s been my partner in crime, through all my negotiations and pushing for improvements on the car, he was just such a racer.
“He was always asking what needs to be improved with the car, whether its front suspension, downforce, whether the engine was OK and he’d come to the factory and would be giving them arseholes as he would say!
“Ultimately he was part of the process of changing my life and if I hadn’t had the call at that time I’d be a one-time World Champion now and probably 22 wins or whatever it was I had at McLaren, and now I sit here a five-time World Champion and I definitely feel like I owe him the lot.”
Hamilton also went on to explain his absence from Wednesday’s FIA Press Conference, in which he was given permission to be replaced by team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
“It was very, very difficult at the beginning of the week, everyone was posting pictures and I don’t feel like I need to conform to how everyone operates,” he said.
“Again coming here on Wednesday I didn’t feel it was the time to do that, but we all love him and miss him and it’s hard to think of never getting to see him again, or talk to him and have conversations, but I’ve got the greatest memories of him and he will live long in my memories.”