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Hamilton: Niki was my partner in crime

NEWS STORY
25/05/2019

Following the blistering lap that saw him wrest pole position from his teammate, after days of silence, Lewis Hamilton finally opened up about the passing of Niki Lauda earlier in the week.

"Firstly, the other day it was quite... I didn't feel like I was really ready, I think Toto also felt fairly similar and maybe Valtteri as well," he said of his decision not to do any media work at the start of the weekend, a decision that drew criticism from some quarters.

"There was time for us to really dig deep into our feelings because we were still reminiscing over the lots of experiences that we've had," he continued.

"Me and Toto have had multiple conversations this week and also myself and Birgit," he said, referring to Lauda's widow. "I was really in touch with Niki a lot, through this past eight months. We would be sending videos back and forth to each other and it was always difficult because some days he looked good and he was really perky and 'I'm coming back, I'm coming strong and I'll be at this race' and then there's other days where he had immediately lost a lot of weight.

"So it was definitely tough from afar and then I was very fortunate that I got to see him, and when I found out the other day I was just thinking because I was here at home in Monaco, I was down by the pool where I live and I remember getting a call from Niki in 2012 and we had never really spoken, me and Niki. So, he's on the phone and he's like, 'no you should come to Mercedes, this is where you need to be', and I remember that was the first time we started talking.

"I had always talked about how Ross was the convincing element in me coming to the team because when I went and sat down with him, he explained what the team was doing, where it was going, their plans. Mercedes and I truly believed in that vision but Niki was the one that brought it to me and got it across the line.

"In all of these years, he's kind of been my partner in crime," said the Briton, "all negotiations, when we were pushing for improvements on the car he was such a racer and even though he wasn't racing himself he would come up to us and say 'what could we do better, what needs to be improved on the car?' You would say front suspension or it's downforce or it's the engine and he would say 'OK' and he will go to the factory and he'll be giving them arseholes like he would always say!

"So yeah, ultimately he was part of the process of changing my life. If I hadn't had the call all that time ago, I would be a one time World Champion now and probably 22 wins whatever it was when I was at McLaren," continued Hamilton, "and I sit here a five time World Champion and I definitely feel like I owe him a lot.

"So it was very, very difficult at the beginning of the week. Everyone's posting pictures and... I don't feel like I have to conform to how everyone operates. I took my time and again, coming here on Wednesday I didn't feel like it was the time to do that but we all love him and miss him and it's hard to imagine or to think that when someone goes, you're never going to get to see them again or to talk to them or have conversations but I've got the greatest of memories with him so he will live on in all our memories."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Monaco, here.

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