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Images from the 2019 F1 Monaco Grand Prix

Silver Arrows: Winning for Niki

May 272019

Lewis Hamilton helped make a fitting tribute to the late three-time world champion, Niki Lauda, by winning the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix in a style which was enigmatic of the Austrian's fighting spirit.

Niki, who was the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Team, sadly passed away on Monday evening. He was 70.

His racing achievements aside, Niki was mainly recognised for one of the bravest and most astonishing comebacks in sporting history.

He suffered horrific burns after crashing in the 1976 German Grand Prix, now made famous in the Hollywood film, Rush. Such was the extent of Niki's injuries he was given his last rites, yet, incredibly, he was back racing again in just 40 days when he finished fourth in the Italian GP.

He was respected and an instrumental figure within the Silver Arrows management team.

An experienced foil for Head of Motorsport, Toto Wolff, he was also a sounding board for Lewis and the two enjoyed a special friendship.

As a mark of respect, the team wore red baseball caps like Niki did, while Lewis wore a special red crash helmet with Lauda's name on the back. The team's car, the W10 EQ Power +, was adorned with Niki's signature while the Halo cockpit canopy and one of the stars on the engine cover were also painted red.

In what was an emotional week for the team, Lewis was made to fight hard for this, his third win in Monte Carlo and the 77th of his Formula One career. His tyres were shot, he was out of grip, and on the twisty roads he was pushed all the way by Max Verstappen. Lewis's effort was herculean and he said he did it while racing in Niki's memory.

Lewis said: "That was definitely the hardest race I've had but nonetheless 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. It was up to me to bring it home for the team and Niki and there was every opportunity to crack under that pressure, but I was determined that I would not crack.”


Meanwhile, Toto said his Austrian compatriot would have been offering up a prayer to ensure his team won such a dramatic race. “Niki would have had another little pray," said Toto. "'Dear God, please just help me this once’ I think it was a world champion's drive for a world champion that is not with us anymore. And he would have loved it because it was down to the driver and fending off another great driver behind.


"It was a battle among champions like we've seen in the past in Monaco, between (Ayrton) Senna and (Nigel) Mansell and (Alain) Prost and all these great names.”


Team mate Valtteri Bottas completed an emotional double-podium for the Silver Arrows with a third place finish. Valtteri said: “My race was decided in the pits. We did a double-stacked pit stop under the Safety Car, Lewis first, then me. Vettel and Verstappen came in as well and when I left the pits, Max was released at the same time and was side-by-side with me. We touched, I hit the wall because there's no space to go and I got a right-front puncture. So I had to do another pit stop the following lap.


“At that point, I thought I'd be at the end of the field, but I only lost a couple of places, so I guess I was unlucky but lucky at the same time. It's always disappointing if you finish the race lower than you qualified; however, my pace was really good all weekend long and I still scored valuable points for me and the team. One of my first thoughts this morning was that I wanted to drive well for Niki, I wanted to win for him. Ultimately, I didn't, but Lewis did, so I'm sure Niki would be proud right now.”


Mercedes now plan to retain the red star on their engine cover as a lasting tribute to Niki as they now prepare for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on June 9th.