Lewis Hamilton was excused from his media duties at the Monaco Grand Prix on Wednesday following the death of Niki Lauda.
Lauda, a triple world champion regarded as one of the sport’s all-time greats, was non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team when he died on Monday night at the age of 70.
The Austrian was instrumental in persuading Hamilton to leave McLaren, where he won his first title in 2008, and join Mercedes at a time when the German constructor had yet to emerge as a dominant force.
Hamilton, who went on to win the 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018 championships, described Lauda as a “bright light in my life” in a message posted on social media on Tuesday.
I’m struggling to believe you are gone. I will miss our conversations, our laughs, the big hugs after winning races together. God rest your soul. Thank you for being a bright light in my life. I’ll always be here for your family should they ever need me. Love you man pic.twitter.com/cotUpuvW2F
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) May 21, 2019
“We asked for Lewis to be excused earlier today following Niki’s death,” a team spokesperson said. “We ask for your understanding in the circumstances that Lewis lost a very close friend in Niki fewer than two days ago.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Vatteri Bottas took his place in the five-man drivers’ news conference after Mercedes asked the FIA for the Briton to be withdrawn. Ferrari’s drivers were also given permission to miss their media duties when former company president Sergio Machionne passed away last year.
F1 will pay tribute to Lauda across the Monaco GP weekend. Mercedes will carry several of their own, with “Danke Niki” and the Austrian’s signature to be displayed on the nose of its cars. One of the stars on the back of its car will also be painted red — the colour of the the hats the Austrian would frequently wear to hide his scars — in his honour, while team members will wear black armbands. More tributes will be added to the Mercedes’ car as the weekend unfolds.
Lauda’s former teams — McLaren and Ferrari — also plan to run tributes.
Information from Reuters contributed to this report