Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff says he still misses Niki Lauda as a friend and colleague, some three years after the death of the three-time World Champion. Lauda passed away in May 2019 aged 70 following a period of ill health. Following a glittering driving career that ended in 1985, Lauda had joined Mercedes in 2012 as non-executive chairman, and was instrumental in bringing Lewis Hamilton to the team the following year. Lauda was a regular figure alongside Wolff on the pit wall until 2018, when his illness began to prevent him from appearing at races. After sweeping every title bar one from 2014 to 2021, Mercedes have slipped back in competitiveness this year, prompting Red Bull Special Advisor Helmut Marko to suggest that the team is missing a degree of authority with Lauda gone. However, Wolff dismissed those claims, adding that Marko's comments had been a touch mischievous. "That's Helmut. He's always teasing, that's okay," Wolff told Austrian outlet Oe24.at in response to Marko's claims. "But what is true: Niki is always missing. I miss him as a friend, a sparring partner and also as chairman. "Believe me, I would rather fight with Niki now than alone."
Wolff in 'comfort zone' amid arguments
Wolff has found himself in the firing line from other Team Principals lately, in arguments over the threat of porpoising to drivers' health, and after Shaila-Ann Rao – a former advisor to Wolff – was appointed interim Secretary General for Sport at the FIA. However, Wolff shrugged off any concerns, adding that he relished the competition and confrontation with other team bosses. "That's right in my comfort zone," said Wolff. "Everyone's been against me my whole life, but that's where I function best. "And if everyone is against me, that means I must have touched a nerve."