The world of Formula 1 was saddened today at the news that three-time world champion Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70.
The Austrian won the WDC in 1975, 1977 and 1984 and holds the unique distinction of being the only driver to become champion for both Ferrari and McLaren.
Names from across the sport have been paying tribute to Lauda and Lewis Hamilton posted a heartfelt message commemorating their friendship on Instagram.
“My buddy, I’m struggling to believe you are gone,” he said. “I will miss our conversations, our laughs, the big hugs after winning races together.
“It’s truly been an honour working alongside you over these past 7 years. I wouldn’t have even been in this team if it wasn’t for you.
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“God rest your soul. Thank you for being a bright light in my life. I’ll always be here for your family should they ever need me. Love you man. Your friend always, Lewis.”
Lauda developed a close relationship with the current champion after he was appointed non-executive chairman of Mercedes in September 2012 and helped the negotiations to get the 34-year-old to join the German outfit.
He revealed later that he secured Hamilton’s signature when he suggested to him that he could take Mercedes to greater heights than Michael Schumacher had in the previous few years.
“I was impressed with his approach to things, very pragmatic, no emotions whatsoever,” he said about Hamilton in an October 2012 interview. “In the end I convinced him that the challenge is what he wants to do.”
Mercedes were amongst those to also bid farewell to Lauda, describing him as “one of the greats” and “a wonderful human being” on Twitter.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas posted a photo of him and Lauda together, simply captioned “RIP Niki #legend”.
A tribute to Lauda is reportedly being planned for the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.