An emotional Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff Sunday dedicated his team’s historic sixth consecutive world championship double to Formula One legend Niki Lauda, who died earlier this year.
Valtteri Bottas won the typhoon-affected Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka with Lewis Hamilton third, meaning that Mercedes sealed a sixth constructors title in a row.
And with only championship leader Hamilton or teammate Bottas able to lift the 2019 drivers title, Mercedes are guaranteed to make F1 history as the first team to lift six straight constructors-drivers world title doubles.
“We want to dedicate this to Niki because he’s just been such an important part from the beginning of the journey,” said Wolff.
“His sheer presence was always so important and the mixture between support and pressure, he was just a very special person,” added Wolff of the three-time world champion and non-executive chairman of Mercedes, who died in May.
“When we embarked on the journey six or seven years ago we wanted to win races more regularly and then fight for a championship,” said Wolff.
“And then six years later it’s the sixth championship in a row.
“I feel so happy for everybody that is involved and lots of hard work behind the scenes, lots of pain, painful moments also but the team was always able to pick themselves up.”
FILE PHOTO: The late chairman of Mercedes AMG former Austrian Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda (R), and the executive director of Mercedes AMG, Austrian Torger Christian ‘Toto’ Wolff (L), at the German F1 Grand Prix at the Nurburgring race on July 7, 2013. AFP / JENS BUETTNER
Ferrari had previously been the only team to win six straight constructors’ titles — between 1999 and 2004.
“I miss him every day,” said Wolff, who like Lauda hails from Austria.
“When we talk in our group of friends, it’s surreal that he’s not here.
“I ask myself what would he say, and what would he think. But it doesn’t compensate for the loss and that he’s simply not here any more.”
Hamilton can clinch the drivers’ championship at the next race in Mexico in a fortnight’s time as he holds a 64-point lead over Bottas.
The Englishman would need to outscore his teammate by 14 points at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez to seal a third consecutive world title and sixth of his career to close in on Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven.