Niki Lauda has revealed that he received a hand-written letter from Sebastian Vettel during his early recovery from a lung transplant.
The three-time World Champion and current Mercedes‘ non-executive chairman is very much on the mend after falling ill whilst on holiday in Ibiza last summer.
But Lauda is now striving to return to the Formula 1 paddock in time for the new season and is getting back to his usual self with his first interview since his illness.
In a wide-ranging discussion, Lauda said that Ferrari driver Vettel had been in touch with him and does not agree with the criticism that Vettel has faced over the course of the 2018 campaign.
“The letter written by Sebastian, in his own hand, was a great pleasure for me, full of fine words and affectionate considerations,” Lauda said to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I didn’t expect it, usually drivers don’t do these things, they just drive. But he’s a good person.
“He has had moments of discouragement, we know, but it would be absurd to question him. He will recover, a champion will not forget how to drive.
“He’ll come back strong as ever and he’ll still be Hamilton’s rival in 2019.”
In true Lauda fashion, he said that he did not miss one race during his lengthy period of hospitalisation.
“I didn’t miss a single grand prix, even though I was in the company of so many IV [intravenous therapy],” said Lauda.
“I watched all the races, called the pits on the weekends, and they always told me what was going on.
“It was like being on the edge of the track with the others. I have to say that I, once again, discovered the warmth of the people I’ve been working with for years.”
Although Lauda certainly makes it look easy, he was under no illusions about just how difficult his recovery would be.
“I knew it would be hard, very hard,” he said. “In such conditions I could only do one thing: fight.
“I did it for every moment, I’m still doing it.”
Lauda added: “Being within my walls is something else. The air here is cleaner, the climate is not as bad as in Austria.
“In a month, they told me, I should be fully fit and ready to start again. I’ll follow the grands prix as before. Why not?”