Lewis Hamilton has spoken openly about the influence the late Niki Lauda had on his Formula 1 career.

Three-time world champion Lauda, who was a close friend and mentor to Hamilton in his role as Mercedes non-executive chairman, passed away earlier this week at the age of 70.

Hamilton was excused from media duties in Monaco on Wednesday, but after snatching a last-gasp pole position which he dedicated to Lauda, the Briton spoke at length about his “partner in crime”.

"Firstly the other day I didn't feel like I was really ready," Hamilton said. "Toto [Wolff, Mercedes boss] also felt the same way. It wasn't the time for us to dig deep into our feelings because we were still reminiscing on the experiences we had.

"When I found out the other day I was just thinking because I was here at home in Monaco and down by the pool. I remember getting a call from Niki in 2012 [while sat in the same place] and we had never really spoken before, and he was on the phone and saying 'you should come to Mercedes, this is where you need to be' and I remember that was the first time we'd started talk.

"I always talked about how Ross [Brawn] was the convincing element in me coming to the team because when I sat down with him, he explained what the team was doing and the plan for Mercedes, and I truly believed in that vision, but Niki was the one that brought it to me and really got it across the line.

"All of these years he's been my partner in crime, through all my negotiations and pushing for improvements on the car, he was just such a racer. He was always asking what needs to be improved with the car, if we said it's front suspension, downforce, or the engine, he'd say OK and he'd come to the factory and would be 'giving them arseholes', as he would say.”

Since making the switch from McLaren to Mercedes ahead of the 2013 season, Hamilton has gone on to win four of the six world championships he has contested to become a five-time world champion.

"Ultimately he was part of the process of changing my life," Hamilton explained.

"If I hadn't had the call all that time ago I'd be a one-time world champion now and probably 22 wins or whatever it was I had at McLaren, and now I sit here a five-time world champion and I definitely feel like I owe him a lot. 

"It was very, very difficult at the beginning of the week, everyone was posting pictures, and I don't feel like I need to conform to how everyone operates. It comes with time.

“Again coming here on Wednesday I didn't feel it was the time to do that, but we all love him and miss him and it's hard to think of never getting to see him again, or talk to him and have conversations. But I've got the greatest memories with him and he will live long in my memories."

 

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