World champion Lewis Hamilton has paid tribute to Niki Lauda by saying he was “a bright light in my life”.
Lauda, who won the Formula 1 drivers’ championship in 1975, 1977 and 1984, died aged 70.
Hamilton worked alongside Lauda with the Mercedes F1 team, where the Austrian was non-executive chairman.
“I will miss our conversations, our laughs, the big hugs after winning races together,” Briton Hamilton said on Twitter.
Lauda helped Mercedes win both the drivers’ and constructors’ title in the past five seasons.
Five-time world champion Hamilton added: “I am struggling to believe you are gone. God rest your soul. Thank you for being a bright light in my life. I will always be here for your family should they ever need me. Love you man.”
Lauda competed in a total of 171 F1 races, winning 25 of them and claiming 54 podium finishes.
‘A super guy’
Lauda, one of the best-known figures in motorsport, almost died following a crash in the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.
Despite suffering severe burns and inhaling hot toxic fumes, he made a remarkable recovery and resumed racing just 40 days later, and went on to win his second world title the following year.
In 1978 he went on to race for Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham team.
Ecclestone, who ran F1 for nearly 40 years until January 2017, described Lauda as a “super guy”.
“It is quite amazing firstly that he lived after the accident and then to come back as quickly as he did,” Ecclestone told BBC Sport.
“I sat with him before the first race he came back at Monza, and he came back from practice, took his helmet off and there was blood running down his face because obviously nothing was healing properly.
“So he had that patched up a bit, put the helmet back on and finished qualifying – so that’s Niki.
“Niki was loved all over the world, I don’t think he did anything bad to anybody.”
Australian Mark Webber, who competed in F1 between 2002 and 2013, ending his career at Red Bull, told BBC Radio 5 Live Lauda was “an absolute icon of our sport and there is a huge hole in our sport because of his passing”.
He added: “Niki was a warrior, an entrepreneur and humble. He was extremely uncomplicated, that was one of his biggest strengths. A spade was a spade and he backed that up with his words and vision.
“He showed great bravery in 1976 to come back and compete with horrendous injuries.
“Because he had a fascination with aviation, he was a risk taker. He pushed the boundaries and openly said, ‘why are we here if we are not going to push limits?’
“He was incredibly crafty and clever, which most great sports people are. He was calm, aggressive when he needed to be, calculated and stood his ground. That is how he was successful.”
Monger inspired by Lauda advice
Billy Monger says advice from Lauda helped inspire him in his comeback to motor racing after having both his legs amputated.
Monger, 20, was seriously injured during a Formula 4 race at Donington Park in April 2017 but claimed his first victory since the accident by winning the Pau Grand Prix on Sunday.
Monger said on The One Show: “I had the opportunity to meet Niki back at the 2017 British Grand Prix, when I was a guest of Lewis [Hamilton], a few months after my accident.
“I was so early on in my recovery that, although I wanted to get back racing, I didn’t know whether it would be possible or not.
“He gave me some really strong words of advice – if it’s something you really want to do, don’t let anyone stand in your way, just work as hard as you can at it. That’s what I did and here we are.”