Toto Wolff says he and Lewis Hamilton share a “similar frame of mind” over the death of Niki Lauda, which has left a “huge black cloud” over the Mercedes Formula 1 team.

The three-time F1 world champion and Mercedes non-executive chairman passed away earlier this week at the age of 70.

Addressing the media ahead of practice for the Monaco Grand Prix on Thursday, a visibly emotional Wolff paid tribute to Lauda, adding his death has left him feeling “like a zombie” after losing such a close friend.

“My emotions are so overwhelming as a friend - the last 48 hours were terrible,” Wolff said.

“I feel like a zombie, I keep looking at the pictures and find myself with tears in my eyes every half an hour because he’s not there anymore. It’s just a huge black cloud and somebody that is so dearly missed in this team and dearly missed in F1, I feel that we have lost the heart and soul of Formula 1.

“We knew that it was not going well in the last days and it was probably a matter of days when we received the message,” he added. “I got a text message from his wife on the Monday evening, and I was in Paris.

“Since then I’m not myself somehow, it feels so surreal being in a Formula 1 paddock with Niki not alive anymore. Although we could see it coming when it happens it is so raw in front of you that you are not going to see him anymore.”

Hamilton, who posted a heartfelt tribute to Lauda on social media, was excused from media duties in Monaco on Wednesday, with Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas filling in during the FIA press conference.

Asked about Hamilton’s frame of mind, Wolff replied: “I think we are maybe in a similar frame of mind. We’ve lost a friend.

“The team were so kind to let us off the hook yesterday and the FIA supported it to not have Lewis in the press conference because of that fact.

“It’s very difficult in our environment that we appreciate that things are being talked about, it’s very difficult to talk about it 48 hours after you have lost a dear friend.

“Besides the friendship that we both had to Niki there was an additional bond that Lewis had to Niki and that was one of a F1 world champion.

“Therefore, the over-arching feeling is just sadness within the team, and that is the same for Lewis and others that are friends to him. We both got the message at the same time on Sunday and spoke to each other straight afterwards.

“Everybody has their own personal way of mourning and sadness, but to conclude Niki would want us to concentrate on the race weekend and deliver on Saturday and deliver on Sunday.”


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