Lewis Hamilton paid tribute to the late Niki Lauda following a hard-fought Monaco GP win.
The reigning Formula One world champion produced a gutsy drive on rapidly deteriorating tyres to fend off the challenge of Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel.
Speaking after the race, Hamilton was quick to dedicate the victory to former three-time world champion Lauda who passed away earlier this week, aged 70.
"That was definitely the hardest race I've had but nonetheless I really was fighting with the spirit of Niki,” Hamilton said. “He's been such an influence in our team and I know he will be looking down and taking his hat off.
“I was trying to stay focused and make him proud that it's been the goal all week and we truly miss him.”
That was for you, Niki. Your fighting spirit was right there with me every step of the way. I know you are looking down and taking your hat off to us. I miss you, we truly miss you and I hope we did you proud today, legend. pic.twitter.com/gwNJvFzY8C— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) May 26, 2019
Prior to his death, Lauda had been acting as non-executive chairman for Mercedes the Mercedes team.
Hamilton’s victory sees him extend his lead at the top of the drivers championship to 17 points over teammate Valteri Bottas, who managed a third place finish in Monte Carlo following a five second penalty for Verstappen.
The Red Bull driver was penalised for colliding with Bottas in the pit lane so was classified fourth in the race despite crossing the line behind Hamilton.
Five-time world champion Hamilton seemed to be in some difficulty for much of the race as his tyres struggled on the track.
"I've not driven on empty tyres since 2009 when McLaren left me out in Shanghai for such a long time. It's great crowds here and I hope it wasn't boring,” He added.
"It was intense I was never going to come in, I learnt the hard way, I wasn't going to come in whether I crashed or finished.”
The Brit survived a late coming together with Verstappen to hang onto the lead and secure his fourth win in six races this season.
“Ultimately it was the wrong tyre, if you look at my back tyre we touched at the chicane but the team has done an incredible job and I'm so proud to be a part of it and I hope I can continue to do well.”
Toto Wolff, Mercedes team boss commended his driver on the team radio immediately following the race, and felt it was a fitting tribute for Lauda:
"Lewis that was a victory for Niki, unbelievable job, congratulations."