Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has admitted that he wants F1 legend and Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda to return to his duties with the team ‘as soon as possible’ but warned against the possibility of the Austrian returning too early from his recuperation from surgery.
Lauda has been a key advisor to Wolff over the past few years, as Mercedes have cruised to five constructor’s championships in a row, but missed the second half of last season after receiving a lung transplant.
"He was there partly as a crutch for Toto (Wolff) to lean on," said Red Bull boss Christian Horner.
Wolff has now admitted to Kleine Zeitung newspaper that he misses the 70-year-old Austrian "a lot".
"Personally, I miss him very much as a human being and as my companion in battle," he said.
"His feedback is important, his interaction with the other teams is important. He has always been our foreign minister and a very important part of this team."
Lauda is not in Australia this week, and Wolff admitted he isn't sure when he will be able to return.
"Not even the doctors know," he said, "but we would like to see it happen as soon as possible. But I don't want to put any pressure on.
"I do think he's out of the woods and on his way back to a normal life, there are always setbacks but the trend is very positive," Wolff added.
"I talk to Niki every other day.
"He is a huge fighter with an incredible resilience and our plan is to get him back to all the races," he said.
Wolff said Lauda's recovery is taking "longer than we planned".
"We expected it to last only six months, maybe a bit more, maybe twelve, but our direction is that we want it to be like it was a year ago," he added.