Mercedes-AMG Motorsport team boss Toto Wolff has said that the passing of Niki Lauda made it difficult to think of anything else over the course of the 2019 Formula 1 season, despite the team securing their sixth Drivers’ and Constructors’ title.
The high-respected Austrian driver and former F1 World Champion, passed away prior to the start of the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, at the age of 70.
The team’s non-executive chairman had forged a strong bond with both team boss Wolff and star driver Lewis Hamilton, first taking the position in September of 2012.
Mercedes ran a number of tributes in respect to Lauda over the course of the weekend and the rest of the season, with the cars running red halos, ‘danke Niki’ also being displayed the engine cover. They also used a single red star on the engine cover until the end of the season. Hamilton also used a different helmet design for the race, out of respect for Lauda.
Although the team enjoyed yet another successful season, when Wolff was asked for his highlight of the year in Abu Dhabi, he said he would rather pay his respects to Lauda.
“I don’t want to talk about the best moment because the overshadowing event was Niki’s death,” he said.
“That is kind of the big theme of the season for us, so I was thinking whilst they were answering when I had a moment which I felt like being the best and I didn’t.
“Of course, we are very grateful to win the Championship but this one moment just overshadows everything else.”
Hamilton paid his own respects to his friend and mentor after taking victory in Monte Carlo.
He said: “I really was fighting with the spirit of Niki – he’s been such an influence in our team and I know he will be looking down and taking his hat off.
“I was trying to stay focused and make him proud that it’s been the goal all week and we truly miss him.”