Lewis Hamilton, Niki Lauda, Monaco, 2019

Hamilton: Without Lauda I’d still be a one-time champion

2019 Monaco Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says he is grateful to the late Niki Lauda for bringing him to Mercedes, where he has won four of his five world championship.

Speaking after he took pole position for today’s Monaco Grand Prix, Hamilton described how Lauda persuaded him to join the team seven years ago.

“When I found out the other day I was just thinking because I was here at home in Monaco, I was down by the pool where I live and I remembered getting a call from Niki in 2012. We had never really spoken, me and Niki. So he’s on the phone and he’s like, ‘no, you should come to Mercedes, this is where you need to be’.

“I remember that was the first time we started talking. I had always talked about how Ross [Brawn, former Mercedes team principal] was the convincing element in me coming to the team because when I went and sat down with him, he explained what the team was doing, where it was going, their plans.

“I truly believed in that vision but Niki was the one that brought it to me and got it across the line.”

Hamilton says he owes the success he has enjoyed since then to Lauda encouraging him to join the team and supporting him in it.

“In all of these years, he’s kind of been my partner in crime. All negotiations, when we were pushing for improvements on the car, he was such a racer and even though he wasn’t racing himself he would come up to us and say ‘what could we do better, what needs to be improved on the car?’ You would say front suspension or it’s downforce or it’s the engine and he would say OK and he will go to the factory and he’ll be ‘giving them arseholes’ like he would always say.

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“Ultimately he was part of the process of changing my life. If I hadn’t had the call all that time ago, I would be a one-time world champion now and probably 22 wins whatever it was when I was at McLaren. And I sit here a five time world champion and I definitely feel like I owe him a lot.”

After learning of Lauda’s death on Monday, Hamilton was excused from participating in the FIA pre-race press conference on Wednesday.

“It was very, very difficult at the beginning of the week. Everyone’s posting pictures. I don’t feel like I have to conform to how everyone operates. I took my time and again, coming here on Wednesday, I didn’t feel like it was the time to do that.

“But we all love him and miss him and it’s hard to imagine or to think that when someone goes, you’re never going to get to see them again or to talk to them or have conversations. But I’ve got the greatest of memories with him so he will live on in all our memories.”

Lauda had not been to a grand prix since his lung transplant operation last year. Hamilton said he was “in touch with Niki a lot” during that time.

“We would be sending videos back and forth to each other and it was always difficult because some days he looked good and he was really perky and ‘I’m coming back, I’m coming strong and I’ll be at this race’ and then there’s other days where he had immediately lost a lot of weight. So it was definitely tough from afar and then I was very fortunate that I got to see him.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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7 comments on “Hamilton: Without Lauda I’d still be a one-time champion”

  1. Respect to LH for his hearfelt insight into the great NL.
    RIP NL. A true F1 Legend

  2. Indeed. Had he not moved to Mercedes when he did then the recent history of F1 would look very different from what it is. Had he stayed at Mclaren then Checo perhaps would’ve moved to Mercedes to partner Nico Rosberg, and then he would’ve been the other driver enjoying the ultra-dominant phase from 2014 onwards. F1 is full of ‘what ifs.’ It’s sometimes interesting to ponder about the potential alternate reality had one thing, or another happened differently.

    1. Mark Johnson
      26th May 2019, 11:46

      Had Schumacher not moved to Ferarri then he would not be a 7 time world champion

      1. Perhaps more, considering williams, mclaren etc. all would’ve wanted him, schumacher took the challenge to take an underperforming ferrari back to victory.

  3. “When I found out the other day I was just thinking because I was here at home in Monaco, I was down by the pool where I live and I remembered getting a call from Niki in 2012. We had never really spoken, me and Niki.”

    That’s strange. I remember a video in 2009, when they had a conversation while driving a car and Hamilton tells Lauda how much the McLaren had improved.

    Lauda had great respect for Hamilton and he really wanted Hamilton to drive for Mercedes. Then in 2012 everything came together. Schumacher’s Mercedes contract expired and Hamilton got fed up with McLaren, so he moved to Mercedes. Had Hamilton won the 2012 championship, he may have stayed with McLaren and face a similar fate as Button and Alonso. Him not winning the title in 2012 was a blessing in disguise.

    I think Mercedes is the best team on an operational level and I think their dominance is even more impressive than the Ferrari dominance at the beginning of this century, which was exaggerated by unlimited testing and tailor-made tires. Wolff and Lauda were at least as good as Todt and Brawn in their Ferrari heydays, so the best team got the best driver and now they’re dominating.

    1. Truth was never a strong point of his

  4. I rate Perez, dont htink it would hav ebeen so clear. Certainly what ifs in that driver combo.

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