Published: Thu, May 23, 2019
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

Lewis Hamilton takes time out after death of ‘close friend’ Niki Lauda

Lewis Hamilton takes time out after death of ‘close friend’ Niki Lauda

The defending five-time world champion, 34, arrived in the Mediterranean principality, to begin preparations for the classic race and was promptly withdrawn from the media event at the request of his Mercedes team.

A team spokesman said they had asked for Hamilton to be excused on the grounds that he had "lost a very close friend in Niki".

"We asked for Lewis to be excused earlier today following Niki's death", the team said in a statement.

Lauda had been an integral part of the Mercedes team since 2012, when Michael Schumacher was driving for them. "In the end it convinced him that the challenge is what he wants to do".

Ferrari has endured a troubled start to the 2019 campaign with the marque having yet to take a win, while rival Mercedes has opened a substantial points advantage in both championships after taking five straight 1-2 finishes.

"The overarching feeling is just sadness within the team and that is valid for Lewis and others that were friends to him", said Wolff.

F1 will pay tribute to Lauda across the Monaco GP weekend.

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Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was 0.072secs off the pace as the top three drivers were closely matched around the street circuit.

Vettel not only sported a near-replica Lauda helmet, but revealed also that, after learning of his friend's lung transplant operation a year ago, he wrote a letter that he described as being "a great pleasure" and "full of fine words".

Formula One said a tribute was in the works, with details to be confirmed. "He was very outspoken, a true character, a true racer, passionate for the sport, all things people respected".

The Mercedes team members will wear black armbands from Thursday and display a tribute to Lauda on their cars this weekend.

"The biggest icon that we had".

Mercedes marked the passing of the man who was instrumental in persuading Lewis Hamilton to join from McLaren with a red star, Lauda's signature and a message of thanks "Danke Niki" on their cars. "It is one thing that the world and the F1 community has lost the biggest icon, but it is totally different, and more hard, to have lost a friend".

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