Sebastian Vettel described Niki Lauda, who died earlier this week, as a “unique person” who will be impossible to replace.
“His sense of humour was very straight. Sometimes you couldn’t tell whether it was a joke or just a statement. But I certainly enjoyed that you don’t come across people like him very often, not just inside Formula 1 but in general. I think he was a unique person.”
Vettel sent Lauda a letter of support after the three-times world champion was admitted to hospital for a lung transplant operation last year.
“Obviously I heard he’s not doing well, and he’s not doing well for a while, and he wasn’t in the mood to pick up the phone or talk,” said Vettel. “I think what you would appreciate if you were in that situation just reading a little note is a nice thing.
“For me it was a no-brainer and a sign of respect [not just] for what he has achieved but also personally what he has done for the sport.
“I think partly the reason why we see the cars as they are today is to him in terms of safety for the driver. If it wasn’t for people like him pushing the boundaries at this time and many other reasons then we wouldn’t be where we are now.”
Vettel said he also appreciated Lauda’s characteristic frankness, no matter who he was talking to. “There’s a lot of people that are not the way you see them on television. I think they are growing in numbers, quickly. But Niki was not one of them.
“He was who he was and never pretended to be anything for anybody else. I think sometimes people were not thinking he was telling the truth even though he was. Very outspoken. A true character, a true racer, and passionate for the sport. A lot of things that people respect in him.
“For sure he’s leaving a big gap that we won’t be able to fill.”
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