Monaco, May 23: Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton was excused from media duties at the Monaco Grand Prix on Wednesday (May 22) following the death of friend Niki Lauda.
Lauda, a three-time champion, served as Mercedes' non-executive chairman from 2012 but passed away at the age of 70 on Monday (May 20).
Hamilton posted a social media tribute to Lauda, describing him as "a bright light in my life", and did not appear alongside his fellow drivers at a news conference in Monte Carlo.
The Briton had been set to join Charles Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen and Robert Kubica in front of the media, but a widely circulated Mercedes statement explained his absence.
"We asked for Lewis to be excused following Niki's death," a team spokesperson said on Wednesday (May 22).
I’m struggling to believe you are gone. 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 pic.twitter.com/cotUpuvW2F— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) May 21, 2019
"We ask for your understanding in the circumstances that Lewis lost a very close friend in Niki fewer than two days ago."
Team-mate and drivers' championship rival Valtteri Bottas instead took the microphone and paid tribute to Lauda.
"He was a massive motivation for everyone," he said. "For myself as well, for sure, as a driver because of everything he achieved and with the difficult career he had and all the comebacks and everything.
"But also as a person, it's been great and I will never forget many, many good moments.
"For sure, it's not nice in terms of mindset for the weekend, but I'm sure as a team we can turn it into a strength and respect Niki by going flat out on track and bringing a good result."
Verstappen referred to Lauda as "a legend of the sport", while Ricciardo described his "pretty amazing" legacy.