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2018 F1

Lauda announces 2019 grand prix return

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Niki Lauda has allayed fears that he might not return to his post at the grands prix with Mercedes.

In August, the F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman had a life-saving lung transplant and missed the remainder of the season.

But Lauda, 69, says he actually didn’t really miss a race.

“I did not miss a single grand prix, even though I was in the company of so many IV tubes,” the great Austrian told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“I followed all the races, phoning the box during the weekends — they always told me what was happening,” Lauda said.

He said he was “never afraid” of dying, and was instead motivated by the urge to “fight”, just as he was after his fiery accident at the Nurburgring in 1976.

“I’m still fighting,” Lauda said.

“I was in hospital until two days ago. Then I was allowed to go home and flew to my house in Ibiza where I will spend Christmas with my great and affectionate family.”

He says physical therapists are with him and still working him hard, but “The doctors told me that in a month I will be completely healthy and I will be able to return to my usual life.

“As before, I will come to the races,” Lauda announced.

He said one of the most pleasant things about his recovery was a hand-written letter from Sebastian Vettel.

“I did not expect it,” said Lauda. “Usually the drivers just drive, but he is a beautiful person.

“Yes, he had difficult moments, but it would be absurd to question him. He will recover — a champion never forgets how to drive.”

However, Lauda said he was most impressed this year by Lewis Hamilton.

“He was exceptional,” he said. “It was the most difficult world championship for him to win because Ferrari was often better than us. But he did not make a single mistake.”

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