Lewis Hamilton was hailed after delivering a “world champion’s performance for an absent world champion” with his victory in an emotional and thrilling Monaco Grand Prix.
Hamilton and his Mercedes team dedicated the Briton’s nerve-jangling win in Monte Carlo to Niki Lauda, their non-executive chairman, who died last Monday.
The Englishman spared Mercedes’ blushes by holding off Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and masterfully getting his car to the chequered flag after his team put him on the wrong rubber.
Hamilton, who vowed to celebrate with a nice meal and glass of wine, will now head to the Canadian Grand Prix a week on Sunday holding a commanding 17-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship.
Mercedes staff paid tribute to Lauda by wearing red caps. Hamilton also sported a one-off helmet in the Austrian’s honour.
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“It was a world champion’s drive for a world champion that isn’t among us anymore,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
As for Hamilton, he was quick to pay tribute to Lauda following the race.
“I definitely felt like Niki was racing with me,” he said. “That was for you, Niki. Your fighting spirit was right there with me every step of the way. I know he was looking down and taking his hat off to us.
“It was the hardest race I have ever had, it was the biggest challenge I have had. It has been such a hard week, emotionally. I just wanted to do the job and deliver for Niki. When I was driving, I was like, ‘what would Niki do?’
“As a driver my goal is to be respected as Niki was. He was a hero to so many.”
Before any of the action got underway on Sunday, Sky Sports F1 paid their own tribute to Lauda, and what a tribute it was.
The 06:40 video was beautifully packaged by the station, and made for a very emotional watch.
Stories from legend's of the sport, flashbacks to Lauda's career and brilliantly narrated by Martin Brundle, Sky Sports should be proud of what they put together.