Sir Jackie Stewart has defended Lewis Hamilton’s media day no-show ahead of the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix following the death of Niki Lauda.

Former Mercedes non-executive chairman Lauda passed away earlier this week at the age of 70, prompting emotional tributes up and down the F1 paddock in Monaco.

Hamilton, who posted a heartfelt tribute to Lauda on social media, was excused from media duties on Wednesday in Monte Carlo as he was replaced in the FIA press conference by Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

The move prompted some criticism, with Lauda’s former F1 teammate John Watson branding Hamilton as “pathetic”, but Stewart argued the five-time world champion’s actions were justified as he deals with the shock news.

“Mind-management is what I lived with and I think it is why I am alive today, because in my day there were so many deaths,” Stewart explained.

“I lost 57 people who were my friends, great friends. In those days you had to manage that mentally in a very strict way and I suspect Lewis Hamilton will handle it in exactly the same way as I would have done.

“When Jochen Rindt died at Monza, he was a close friend and I’ll never forget it for the rest of my life. I was crying when I got into the car and I cried when I got out of the car but I put in the fastest lap that I’d ever done at Monza in three laps.

“Lots of people in the media said it was a death wish, it wasn’t a death wish, it was just removing the bad bit. But the bad bits came back as soon as you stopped the car.

“So mind-management and just being able to handle it, it’s not being selfish, it’s not not caring, it’s just that you have a job to do and you do it. I would think Lewis has got all the skills and talent to do the same.”

Current championship leader Hamilton dominated Thursday practice in Monaco as he topped both sessions ahead of Bottas, with Mercedes looking to continue its historic run of one-two finishes at the start of 2019.

Asked if he thinks Hamilton has additional motivation this weekend, Stewart replied: “I don’t think it is for Niki, it doesn’t need to be for Niki. He needs to do the best he can.

“Niki was obviously very close to the whole Mercedes team and that’s being unkind at all. I think it’s a question of the person has to adjust to the circumstances of the day, and it is a sad thing that Niki has died.

“I called Niki a good friend and I was shocked when I heard. And as a team, Mercedes-Benz will feel it more than anyone else because they spent so much time together.

“But the switch off time, when you get in your cockpit and the lights go out, you are a racing driver and you are driving a car which is the most sophisticated piece of engineering in the world and to take that to it’s absolute limit, Lewis Hamilton is totally capable of doing that in qualifying and in a race itself, and in the same way that I did.”

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