Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes non-executive chairmain Niki Lauda was not a fan of his during the early part of the Briton's Formula 1 career.
Lauda was influential in luring Hamilton to Mercedes from McLaren for the 2013 season, resulting in back-to-back world championships for both driver and team in 2014-15.
"When I started out Niki wasn't a big fan of mine, as far as I was aware, not always the most complimentary towards me," Hamilton told Autosport.
"He didn't know me, and we hadn't really met and spoken.
"It wasn't until we started talking mid-2012 that our relationship started, from scratch.
"You know how competitive and how diligent he was when he was racing, and I think he saw a lot of himself in me.
"We like the same things, we're very similar in many ways, so our relationship started from then.
"Since then he has been one of my strongest supporters within this team and organisation, which is hugely, hugely appreciated."
Speculation emerged at the end of the season that Lauda and Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff had fallen out, and the former could walk away from the team.
They were rumours robustly rejected by Wolff who described them as "rubbish" and "laughable".
Hamilton added: "Ultimately you have to imagine at some point Niki is not going to want to be part of the team.
"But ever since I've been in the team, Niki has been hugely influential on the whole group.
"It's the same with Toto, in terms of how they've managed everyone, how they've managed us, how they've been as bosses.
"You couldn't have asked for better people to be with this team.
"So I hope Niki stays around for a lot longer, but I respect that he's been in the business a long, long time."