Belfast Telegraph

Hamilton too emotional to open up on passing of friend Lauda

 

New wheels: Lewis Hamilton arrives at the paddock in Monaco on his scooter
New wheels: Lewis Hamilton arrives at the paddock in Monaco on his scooter
Niki Lauda

By Philip Duncan

An emotional Lewis Hamilton withdrew from yesterday's press conference in Monaco, informing his Mercedes team he was not ready to speak about Niki Lauda's death.

The 34-year-old world champion had been due to participate in the media event to preview Sunday's race in Monte Carlo.

But 30 minutes before Hamilton was set to take to the stage, it was announced the FIA, Formula One's governing body, had given the British star permission to skip the televised briefing.

Hamilton was very close to Lauda, the Mercedes non-executive chairman, who died on Monday. It was the Austrian who played a key part in persuading Hamilton to join Mercedes, the team for whom he has won four of his five world titles.

Hamilton, who had paid tribute to Lauda on social media, describing him as "the bright light in my life", arrived in the paddock on his scooter yesterday.

He attended team engineering meetings as scheduled ahead of this weekend's race, and will take part in practice in Monte Carlo today.

A Mercedes spokesperson said: "We asked for Lewis to be excused in the circumstances following yesterday's news. The FIA kindly agreed to a dispensation."

Hamilton was replaced by team-mate Valtteri Bottas. Asked about the Briton's well-being, the Finn replied: "He seems okay."

To honour the memory of the three-time world champion, black armbands will be worn by team members of Mercedes, while the cars will sport the message 'Danke Niki' alongside his signature on the nose

On the engine cover, one of the stars representing the marque's world titles will be in red, his trademark colour.

Ferrari, for whom Lauda won two of his titles, will also run a tribute on their red machines.

His helmet, meanwhile, will be on display at McLaren's marketing area, as well as his winning trophy from the 1984 Austrian Grand Prix - the season he won the championship for the British team.

A minute's silence is set to be staged by F1 on the grid before Sunday's race.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel sent a letter to Lauda as he recovered from his double lung transplant last summer.

Speaking yesterday, he said: "I feel extremely privileged not just to have known him but to have chatted with him regularly. He was a unique person."

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