Monaco GP: Lewis Hamilton excused media duties following Niki Lauda death

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer in Monaco
Lewis Hamilton in Monaco
Lewis Hamilton finished third in Monaco last year and was the last Mercedes driver to win this race - back in 2016

Lewis Hamilton was exempted from his media duties before the Monaco Grand Prix on Wednesday following the death of Niki Lauda.

Hamilton was set to attend the official news conference but his Mercedes team asked for him to be excused.

Lauda was the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team and was close to Hamilton, having been instrumental in persuading him to join in 2013.

Mercedes are planning a tribute to Lauda on their cars during the weekend.

And team members will wear black armbands in honour of the 70-year-old Austrian, a three-time world champion and an iconic figure in Formula 1.

The sport is also planning events to honour Lauda, although the details have not yet been made public.

Hamilton's place in the official FIA news conference was taken by his team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

The Finn said: "Really shocking news to start the week. He meant a lot to me but also to every single team member. He was a big part of the Mercedes family.

"He was a massive motivation for everyone, and for me - everything he achieved, the difficult career he had, the comebacks: I will never ever forget.

"Not the best mindset for the weekend but I am sure as a team we can can turn it into motivation."

Other drivers in the news conference also paid tribute to Lauda.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen said: "Niki was a legend of the sport. He achieved a lot, but he was also a very generous and funny guy."

This video has been removed for rights reasons

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc added: "I didn't have many chances to meet with Niki but the very few times I spoke him him, he was extremely nice.

"He was always available and also very humble [despite] what he achieved. He is a great example for the sport in general and he will be missed a lot."

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, Leclerc's team-mate, said: "Niki leaves a void that will be difficult to fill. He was a genuine motor racing icon."

Lauda won two of his three world titles for Ferrari, in 1975 and 1977, and team principal Mattia Binotto said: "The run-up to this Monaco Grand Prix has been perturbed by our sadness at the news of Niki's death.

"His straightforward, no-nonsense approach will be missed in Formula 1 and it will seem strange for all of us not seeing him in the paddock.

"Niki was a standard bearer for Ferrari and for Formula 1 and he pushed through changes in motor racing that made it even more professional, being ahead of his time in terms of being a stickler for detail which is now very much a key element of our sport."

Hamilton leads the championship by seven points from Bottas after five races so far this season, in which the Mercedes drivers have finished one-two on each occasion.

Their closest rival is Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who is 46 points behind Hamilton, two ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who is seven in front of team-mate Charles Leclerc.

Monaco Grand Prix coverage details
DateSessionTimeRadio coverageOnline text commentary
Wednesday, 22 MayPreview19:00-20:00 - Listen hereBBC Radio 5 Live
Thursday, 23 MayFirst practice09:55-11:35BBC Radio 5 Live Sports ExtraFrom 09:30
Second practice13:55-15:35BBC Radio 5 Live Sports ExtraFrom 13:30
Saturday, 25 MayThird practice10:55-12:05BBC Sport onlineFrom 10:30
Qualifying13:55-15:05BBC Sport onlineFrom 13:00
Sunday, 26 MayRace13:00-16:00BBC Radio 5 LiveFrom 12:30
Monday, 27 MayReview04:30-05:00BBC Radio 5 Live
Chequered Flag podcast: Monaco Grand Prix review - download here once the race has finished

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