'Love you man': Lewis Hamilton says goodbye to Niki Lauda

Tom McGowan
Deputy Head of Sport

Lewis Hamilton has paid a heartfelt tribute to Niki Lauda, the Formula One great who passed away Monday.

The five-time world champion worked with Lauda since joining Mercedes in 2013, with the Austrian playing a role in persuading Hamilton to join the German manufacturer.

“I’m struggling to believe you are gone,” Hamilton tweeted Tuesday. “I will miss our conversations, our laughs, the big hugs after winning races together. 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.”

READ: Formula 1 pays tribute to a “hero”

IN PICTURES: Niki Lauda dies aged 70

Lauda became non-executive chairman of Mercedes back in 2012 having established himself as one of the finest drivers of all time during the 1970s and 80s.

He won three world championships - in 1975, 1977 and 1984 - although he is perhaps best remembered for his comeback from a horrific crash in 1976.

During an intense championship battle with British icon James Hunt, Lauda lost control of his car at the Nurburgring and it burst into flames.

Lauda was hospitalised after inhaling toxic fumes and suffering extreme burns which would scar him for the rest of his life.

Remarkably, he returned to racing just six weeks later and finished just one point behind Hunt in the drivers’ standings.

The incredible events of that season were immortalised in the 2013 film ‘Rush’, directed by Ron Howard and starring Daniel Bruhl as Lauda.

“RIP the Great #NikiLauda,” Howard said on Twitter. “Here’s our last meeting in #MonteCarlo in ‘18 We first met while making the movie Rush.

“The F1 world knows of his grit & intensely competitive spirit, but that matched w/his keen intelligence & wisdom made him a distinctively remarkable man. a force.”

Meanwhile, Bruhl paid tribute on Instagram saying: “The bravest man, I’ve ever met, not only because he was an F1 World Champion in the crazy 70’s and had the most incredible comeback in sport’s history, but also because of how he treated people.

“Always honest, straight forward, blunt. Niki told you the truth to your face, no matter how uncomfortable. He was totally unpretentious and incredibly funny. I learned a lot from him and deeply admired him. I know how much you enjoyed flying.

“Race the sky in peace immortal Champ, we’ll miss you. Mach’s gut Niki.”