Lewis Hamilton was excused from the FIA press conference ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix following the death of Niki Lauda this week.
Three-time Formula 1 world champion Lauda passed away on Monday, with tributes from the world of motorsport pouring in when the news was announced on Tuesday morning. Lauda was more recently the non-executive chairman at Mercedes and played a role in bringing Hamilton to the team in late 2012, and the team had a request accepted by the FIA for Hamilton to miss media duties on Wednesday in Monaco.
Drivers are obliged by the regulations to carry out media duties pre-race, but the FIA allowed a similar exemption to Ferrari at last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix following the death of Sergio Marchionne.
Valtteri Bottas took Hamilton’s place in the FIA press conference, and says it has been tough for the team to try and focus on this weekend’s race.
“Obviously it was a pretty shocking news to start the week with, as Niki meant a lot to me but also to every single member of our team as well,” Bottas said. “Both for our race team and for our factory team, he was a big part of the Mercedes family, a massive motivator for everyone, for myself as well.
“For sure as a driver for everything he achieved, with the difficult career he had, with all the comebacks he had, but also as a person, he has been great. I’ll never forget many, many good moments we had together.
“For sure it’s not nice, in terms of mindset, for the weekend, but I’m sure that, as a team, we can turn things our way and respect Niki with going flat out on track and bringing a good result.”
Bottas said Lauda’s approach to challenges in both racing and life is something he will remember, having received the Austrian’s support during his two and a half years at Mercedes to date.
“With Niki it was always fun because of his sense of humor and he was so direct. He always said whatever he thinks how things are. He never went through different routes to say it, he said things directly and that made for some funny moments in each race, meetings and stuff.
“The one thing that stands in my mind is that he was always there when we had good results, to congratulate us, and you could see he was truly happy. But the main thing was that when I had some bad races or difficult times he was still available to speak about anything and be really supportive.
“He had the experience himself, in racing and in life as well, that there will be setbacks and you can really improve from those. In that sense, he has been a massive motivation for me and that will stay in my mind.”