Hamilton excused from media duties after Lauda's death

Formula One 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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