Feb.23 - Although Formula 1 is always looking ahead, the Formula 1 paddock paused on Thursday to mark what would have been the 75th birthday of the great Niki Lauda.

One of his friends and Austrian countrymen, fellow F1 legend Gerhard Berger, thinks Lauda's absence at Mercedes since his 2019 death is being palpably felt today.

"He would have done everything to ensure that Lewis Hamilton didn't go to Ferrari," Berger told Germany's Auto Bild.

"That would have freaked him out - and he might have prevented it."

Also in the mood to remember his great long-time friend on Thursday was Dr Helmut Marko, who despite being a fierce competitive rival of Lauda's, also remained very close to the triple world champion in the F1 paddock of the world.

"Niki was my constant companion throughout my entire career," Marko, 80, confided to Sport1.

"He always liked to play the egoist and he was only too happy to cultivate the image of the hard businessman," the Red Bull consultant added. "But deep down he was a good, generous person.

"I miss him very, very much. Especially our breakfasts together. Like me, he always got straight to the point. And of course there were arguments.

"But two types like us always found each other again afterwards. He has left a gap that I cannot fill. Just like Dietrich Mateschitz. Mainly as friends, but also as charismatic people.

"There is no one in the entire Formula 1 world who could hold a candle to Niki in terms of personality, humour and straightforwardness. It didn't matter to him whether he offended anyone. And he didn't need any contracts either," Marko said.

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