Lewis Hamilton says he misses Niki Lauda’s support and their conversations. Lauda passed away in May of 2019, following a lung transplant.
The six-time champion often said that Mercedes’ non-executive chairman Niki Lauda was instrumental in bringing him to Mercedes’ works team in 2013. He has always been very open about the emotional impact Lauda’s death had on him.
“I miss getting the texts, I miss sharing those videos, and I still have a lot of our conversations and every now and then I revisit it,” said Hamilton while talking about the special relationship he had with the legendary three-time F1 champion.
“But again, without his support, I probably wouldn’t have made the switch to come to this team. Without his support, I wouldn’t still be with this team.
“I don’t think this team would have had success without his support. Going to the board, pushing and breaking their balls. That is what he was the best at.
“But also being real with me. Being the bridge between… Toto [Wolff] was a racing driver and the board, who were not racing drivers, to have a real champion who understands, and empathises with how difficult it is to deliver weekend in weekend out, [and] when you make a mistake…
“That is where he has been such a great, great pillar for me. So I miss him a lot.”
Although Hamilton says Lauda has been “saying certain things about me on the TV and not really having a great opinion of me”, the Austrian did not hesitate to reach out to him when a spot at Mercedes opened up for 2013.
“All of sudden I was in this position where I’ve got to make a big decision in my life and Niki is on the phone to me. I thought: ‘Wow I am talking to a three-time world champion’, and I didn’t really know him, so I can’t say I trust this guy on the phone.
“But then I sit down with Ross [Brawn], and I sit down with Niki in a hotel room, and just the journey we went on. I would like to think that we grew to love each other as friends.”
However Lauda’s health declined rapidly after undergoing a lung transplant and, ultimately, the Austrian passed away in May of this year. Hamilton says he went to visit his mentor in the hospital “not long before he passed”.
“It was really tough to see him,” said the Brit.
“We had been sending videos to each other, and I had seen him through his biggest dip and he came back and was in a wheelchair and I was really hopeful.
“And then he had another fall and started to get worse. And that is when I went to see him. And it was still a shock to see your mate in a bed, plugged in. And I’ve been there before. My auntie died of cancer so I had seen it.
“But it is always a shock. And you could see his spirit, this bright spirit of his still shining, but it was starting to dim a little, you know?
“And his fighting spirit was starting to dim, which is only natural when you are going through such a long battle.
“So it just hit me.”