Hamilton excused from media duties after Lauda's death

Formula 1® champion Lewis Hamilton was excused from media duties at the Monaco Grand Prix on Wednesday 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.

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.

"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.

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