A year on from the passing of Niki Lauda, Mercedes has led tributes to the Austrian. After a hugely successful career in the car, Lauda joined Mercedes as a non-executive chairman, partnering with Toto Wolff during Mercedes’ run of domination in Formula 1.
Wolff, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and other members of the Mercedes team have paid tribute to Lauda, with a video remembering the F1 icon.
Lewis Hamilton, who regarded the three-time world champion as a friend, mentor and crucial in his move from McLaren to Mercedes for 2014.
“Probably the most fond memories I have are from my first conversations,” he said. “We started talking some time in 2012 and I just remember being home during the day, having a call from Niki and he is trying to convince me to come to the team. It was very cool to have a call from a world champion and an icon like Niki.
“He was such a positive, funny, entertaining guy, he always had the greatest stories to tell. He was a natural born racer. He was always thinking about how we can improve. The greatest sign from Niki was if you did the job, he would take off his hat. That was for him saying ‘Well done!’
“We would talk often after the races and he would be asking things like: ‘Hey, Lewis, what do you need to be better? What do you need?’ He was always chasing.
“If I was to learn anything from him it would be that. As a driver and within a team you naturally have to work together but you have to lead it. You have to lead the team, you have to ask the questions, you have to really dig deep and push everybody.
“I am grateful for the opportunity and forever love Niki. I know he is with us every race in spirit.”
As Mercedes team boss, Wolff formed a partnership with Lauda that helped Mercedes during its current period of success. He called Lauda a great sparring partner and a friend.
“What did I learn from Niki? So much. From a personal standpoint it is to never give up. Don’t ask for understanding, just get things done. Niki never complained. He was somebody that would be in pain and go through struggle, but he just sorted it out.
“The adversity that was thrown at him and the way that he coped with it is something that I really admired.
“Through the years our relationship developed and I think we learned a lot from each other because we were so different but his input and him being a sparring partner and a sounding board and most important a friend that would be with me in that in a hostile environment is something that I tremendously miss.”
Valtteri Bottas joined the team partway through the team’s successful period, but credits the Austrian as an inspiration to him.
“From Niki I learned to always trust your talent, never doubt it, to really always remind yourself that you should not doubt your driving style, the way you do your things in the car. I also learned from him not to let your head get too down from disappointments and how to recover from them quicker and to look forward to more positive times.
“Niki inspired me just by giving his support always when I needed it. He was the person that inspired me in the difficult times, he was always there with his support, for me to bounce back and to remind myself why I am doing this and that I am good enough to do it. He was very good at that.”
Mercedes managing director of powertrains Andy Cowell pointed to Lauda as an inspirational figure during the team’s resurgence and said his mind for detail and determination were among his many admirable qualities.
“Niki Lauda: A Formula 1 legend and an amazing colleague, an amazing person to learn from, to learn about having true determination, good focus, to achieve amazing things. Through 2013 he visited the factory frequently to help us stay focused and solve problems.
“When he arrived everybody paid attention, everybody would listen to his words of advice. Simple words of advice and you take away the key things that we need to do and he would remind us of those.
“He often reminded me of the numbers that I had told him. He had a keen sense of memory for those bits of detail.
“I have learned so much from Niki. He is a person that I am proud that I have known and taken lots of advice from over the years. Thank you, Niki.”
James Allison joined Mercedes as technical director, and said Lauda was crucial in helping Mercedes maintain its high levels of performance throughout the years, crediting him as a major part in why the team has been so successful.
“Niki is someone who’s life was huge, bold, sweeping and brave and big enough to fill 10 autobiographies. Yet he didn’t spend any time talking either about himself or reliving past glories.
“He was about looking ahead, he was much, much more interested in engaging with us about the challenges the team faced and the opportunities that lay ahead of us and he was a massive, massive friend to our team.
“He was our Chairman. He was equally adept in the board room and with the fans. He would represent us with F1 and the FIA. He would spent time with the press always representing us at the highest level. And he is a big part, an important part why the cupboards are stuffed full of silverware both at Brackley and at Brixworth.”