Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport will have heavy hearts as they look to extend their historic run of results after the team’s Non-Executive Chairman and Three-Time World Champion Niki Lauda died earlier this week.
Team Principal Toto Wolff called Lauda “the heart and soul of Formula 1.”
“As you can imagine, this is very difficult,” Wolff said Thursday during an emotional press conference. “Very difficult for the team, for all of us and most importantly very difficult as a friend.
“It’s not an easy situation to try to go back to racing. … Everyone will have his own personal way of mourning and feeling the sadness, but Niki would want us to concentrate on the race weekend and deliver on Saturday and deliver on Sunday.”
Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and the Mercedes team have delivered so far this campaign with a record run of five consecutive 1-2 finishes to start the season, putting them atop the drivers’ and constructors’ standings ahead of the sixth round of 2019 at the iconic Circuit de Monaco.
Hamilton, who leads Bottas in the drivers’ standings by seven points, has won twice in Monaco, most recently in 2016, and has been on the podium four of the past five years. Dating back to last year’s British Grand Prix, Hamilton has been on the podium 16 times in 17 races, capturing 11 victories in that stretch.
“It’s the dream for every driver to come to Monaco and have a car that you can exploit and utilize your abilities with,” Hamilton said after setting the pace in both free practice sessions. “I’m really proud of the team and naturally our goal is to try and do something really positive this weekend.”
Bottas will be eyeing the first Monaco podium of his career after he just missed out in his two previous tries with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, finishing fourth in 2017 and fifth in 2018.
“It’s been a good day for us on track,” Bottas said. “In previous years, the car felt sometimes difficult to drive, but today it was very driveable, responsive and enjoyable. You need to find the limits on this track and I felt comfortable to push towards the limit, which is a good sign. Now we need to fine tune the set-up and make sure we keep going in the right direction. I think we’ve started the weekend on the right foot, but we’re in Monaco and anything can happen.”