There is no doubt that the late three-time Formula 1 champion and Mercedes’ former non-executive chairman Niki Lauda was the heart and soul of the modern Silver Arrows team. In an interview with RTL Toto Wolff talked about the role his countryman played in him coming to Mercedes.
“Niki Lauda was the first person from Mercedes to approach me at the time,” the Austrian explained.
“He said, ‘You have to join us.’ I wasn’t convinced that was a good idea. I think the key moment was when Ross Brawn, the Mercedes team principal at the time, came to our house.
“To be precise, Ross was in my mother’s kitchen and over tea he explained what Mercedes’ plans were.
“It then became crystal clear what Mercedes had done to make it an outright winner and that impressed me. I went to talk to Niki at the time to negotiate a deal, I think back on that with pleasure.
“An important part of it was that Niki made it clear to me how much we had in common. Niki said, ‘You’re basically just like me.’
“With his racing mentality, Lauda, who died in May 2019, and Hamilton were brothers in spirit.”
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And so, during the contract negotiations with Lewis, Wolff often thought about what Niki Lauda’s approach would have been.
“I feel that Niki is always there when there are situations where I would have needed his advice. And this time, too, there were moments when I thought ‘what would Niki have said?’
“Niki had two hats on, so to speak: He looked at something from the driver’s perspective, but he could also understand the team perspective.
“Niki probably would have said, ‘Lewis is just the best driver, he fits in with Mercedes. We have to keep that combination at all costs’.
“Wait, ‘at all costs’ is not what Niki would have said, maybe more like… ‘In the sense of a good sporting future for him and the team’,” concluded Wolff jokingly.