Speaking to the press in a team briefing, Toto Wolff was highly emotional when paying tribute to the late, great Niki Lauda, his colleague at Mercedes and close friend.
Lauda had suffered a series of health setbacks following a lung transplant last year and passed away on Monday, surrounded by his family.
“As you can imagine, this is very difficult, very difficult for the team, for all of us and it is very difficult, most importantly, as a friend”, said Wolff.
“It’s not an easy situation to try to go back to racing, especially not in Monaco with so much media attention in front of all of you. I’m trying to keep it together emotionally, in speaking about a friend.
“This is what matters most and what hurts the most. It is one thing that the world and the F1 community has lost the biggest icon but it is totally different, and much more difficult, to have lost a friend.
“We have been missing Niki at every single race at the end of last season when he fell ill and the beginning of this season. But, being faced with him not being with us any more and being faced with personally not texting him and more or speaking to him after a race weekend, receiving his feedback and losing him as a sparring partner is the most difficult.
“Hopefully you can accept that we will and can carry on with racing this weekend as Niki would have wanted us to do nothing else. We also ask that you respect the emotions within this team this weekend.”
From today, the W10 will carry a single red star on its livery. ⭐️
For our Chairman and for our friend. pic.twitter.com/GsuFeoIPGi
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) May 23, 2019
Lauda had been working alongside Wolff at Mercedes since 2012 when he joined as non-executive chairman, and the two struck up a close working and personal relationship.
“My emotions are so overwhelming as a friend, the last 48 hours have been terrible”, Wolff added.
“I feel like a zombie, I keep looking at the pictures, and find myself with tears in my eyes every half hour because he’s not here any more. This isn’t making it easy for me right now. There’s a huge black cloud, and there is someone who is so dearly missed in this team and in Formula 1 – I feel like we’ve lost the heart and soul of Formula 1.”
In the aftermath of his death, various tributes have been made across the paddock and will no doubt continue throughout the weekend.
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