Lewis Hamilton dedicates Monaco GP pole to Lauda
May 27 2019 , 10:57 pm
There could have been no greater contrast in the visceral physicality of Lewis Hamilton’s pleasure at securing pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix and the repressed fury of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, whose day ended in ignominy.
Hamilton barked an affirmative celebration and embraced fans trackside, ecstatic at having delivered in honour of his friend Niki Lauda, who died last Monday. Leclerc, meanwhile, stalked from his garage knowing he would be starting from the back end of the grid at the home race he dearly wants to win.
Hamilton’s pleasure was clearly largely driven by a sense of achievement after the death of the Mercedes non-executive chairman and three-times champion Lauda. He had not felt ready on Wednesday to speak to the media but wanted to deliver what Lauda would have wanted most: another success for Mercedes.
“This one’s for Niki,” he said, after he and teammate Valtteri Bottas secured another front-row lockout. “Definitely one of the best qualifying [sessions] I can remember. One that means as much as this one, it having been such a difficult week, for the team and personally. Niki always used to say: ‘Give it arseholes’ and that’s what I try to do every time I get in the car. We wanted to do him proud.”
Hamilton revealed they had been in constant touch over the past eight months while the Austrian had been in recovery from a lung transplant operation. Lauda was instrumental in bringing Hamilton to Mercedes, where he has won four of his five titles, in 2013, and the British driver reiterated just how important a role he had played in his career.
“I was at home in Monaco when I got the call from Niki in 2012. We had never really spoken and he said: ‘You should come to Mercedes.’ It was the first time we started talking,” he said. Hamilton has always stressed the job the then team principal Ross Brawn did in persuading him of Mercedes’s promise, but Lauda was the vital component.
“Niki was the one that brought it to me and got it across the line,” he said. “Then all of these years he has been my partner in crime. He was such a racer, even though he was not racing he would ask: ‘What can we do to improve the car?’. We would tell him and he would go to the factory and give them arseholes, as he would say. He was part of the process of changing my life. If I hadn’t had the call I would be a one-time world champion, and now I am a five-time world champion.”
Hamilton has returned their faith in him in spades, not least with a superlative lap on his final run of the day in Monte Carlo that could not be matched. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will start in third, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in fourth.