Hamilton mourns Lauda a year on from three-time champion's death
Lewis Hamilton has paid an emotional tribute to Niki Lauda on the first anniversary of the death of the three-time Formula 1 world champion.
Lauda passed away in his sleep, aged 70, at a hospital in Zurich a year ago today (May 20) following a period of ill health.
Hamilton has hailed Lauda as one of the two people - alongside Ron Dennis - who has had the biggest impact on his career as it was the Austrian who ultimately persuaded the 35-year-old to leave McLaren and join Mercedes.
Hamilton said: "Niki is someone who I miss and who I think we all miss dearly.
"It is a difficult subject to talk about; someone you are so fond of, and someone that ultimately the world has lost, but I have only the greatest memories with Niki.
"Probably the fondest memories I have are from my first conversations. We started talking sometime in 2012 and I just remember being home during the day, having a call from Niki and he is trying to convince me to come to the team. It was very cool to have a call from a world champion and an icon like Niki."
That was the catalyst for Hamilton, who continued to be pursued by Lauda, even though at the time he felt the Austrian "didn’t necessarily value me as a driver - but he did".
The six-time champion added: "Then we sat together in Singapore. He came to my room and we had a good conversation.
"I think that was the time when Niki was like 'Oh my God, you are just like me in so many ways. We have actually a lot more in common than I anticipated and assumed'
"From then on, we had a really great relationship. We travelled together, I got to spend some time with him in Ibiza. He was such a positive, funny, entertaining guy, he always had the greatest stories to tell."
Lauda's influence on Hamilton, and Mercedes, continued on and off track.
"He was a natural-born racer," assessed Hamilton. "He was always thinking about how we can improve.
"The greatest sign from Niki was if you did the job, he would take off his hat. That was him saying, ‘Well done!’ It wasn’t the easiest for him to compliment you, so that would be it for him, to take off his hat.
"We would talk often after the races and he would be asking things like, ‘Hey, Lewis, what do you need to be better? What do you need?’ He was always chasing.
"If I was to learn anything from him it would be that. As a driver and within a team you naturally have to work together but you have to lead it. You have to lead the team, you have to ask the questions, you have to really dig deep and push everybody.
"Niki kind of taught me how to approach that in a working environment and I like to think that I am able to apply that to every day, my everyday racing life."
Hamilton has conceded to feeling "so privileged" to have known and worked with Lauda, and especially for the persuasive powers that resulted in him joining Mercedes where he was won five of his six world titles.
Hamilton added: "I look at Niki as an incredible, supportive role model.
"With Niki, convincing me to come to a team that at the time had a lot of success to come. To a place where you are welcomed into an environment, given space to grow and given the space to be you and not try to change you.
"Whilst it takes people some time to get used to the concept of what is different in life, I think a lot of people are afraid of what is different but you should never shy away from what is different. That is often one of the key elements that help bring change.
"I am grateful for the opportunity and forever love Niki. I know he is with us every race in spirit."
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