Niki Lauda: From Crashes to Championships - The Story of a Formula One Legend
A three-time Formula One champion, Niki Lauda may have died at the age of 70, but he remains an immortal figure in the hearts of the Formula One Racing fraternity.
In the 1975 German Grand Prix at Nurburgring, a Ferrari race car crashed during the second lap of the race while making a sharp left turn. It swerved off the track, crashed on the side embankment, burst into flames and finally collided with a Surtees-Ford car, which was in pursuit. The driver of the Ferrari suffered severe burns and was immediately rushed to the hospital.
The doctor gave up hope as the driver had suffered multiple injuries, third degree burns and inhaled toxic gases during the crash. But miraculously, he survived. Forty days later, he was back to racing, despite not completely recovering from life-threatening injuries. That was Niki Lauda, a man of unimaginable determination and grit.
(Niki Lauda in a Formula One Circuit)
Born in Vienna, Austria, Niki Lauda rose through the ranks from Formula 2 to Formula 1. In 1974, he joined Ferrari. Despite poor faith in his abilities by his own team, he emerged as the runner-up in his debut race, that season. From then on, he climbed his way up winning two Formula One championships in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari.
(Niki Lauda sitting in his F1 car)
Post that, he left Ferrari and tried his luck at Brabham-Alfa Romeo, whose owner was Bernie Ecclestone, former CEO of the Formula One group during that period. His stint was unsuccessful there and he chose to quit Formula One racing in 1979.
(Bernie Ecclestone(Extreme Left) and Niki Lauda(Extreme Right) during a conversation)
Three years later, he announced his re-entry into Formula One racing. In 1982, after negotiations and successful testing, he joined McLaren. Though initially he did not have a bright start, his performance improved and he was deemed a star. Two years into Mclaren, he won his third and final championship in 1984 with a 0.5 point difference over his McLaren teammate, Alain Prost.
(Niki Lauda(Left) and Alain Prost(Right) as team-mates in Mclaren)
Post His Permanent Retirement
Despite working as an airline entrepreneur, he worked on some management roles in quite a few racing teams. During the 1990’s to early 2000’s he worked as a consultant at Ferrari racing and as a team principal in the Jaguar One Formula team. After unsuccessful management roles, he returned to work in his airline entrepreneurship.
While Lauda Air was his first airline, he started another named 'Niki' in late 2003. Nine years later, he was appointed as a non-executive chairman of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula one team. He played a crucial role in the negotiations involved in signing Lewis Hamilton, for a deal with Mercedes. That said, Lewis Hamilton went on to win five world championships with Mercedes.
(Lewis Hamilton(Left) and Niki Lauda(Right) having a light moment)
Niki Lauda will be remembered for his valour and determination on and off the track. The crash at Nurburgring was an important turning point in his career and for Formula One history. The irony was, safety regulations for drivers and cars were given least importance during that period. The accident blew open a can of worms regarding safety regulations and now, safety standards are given the first priority in the contemporary era of Formula One racing. Nevertheless, Formula One fans will rejoice his racing in the coming years and he will truly be an immortal personality in the hearts of the Formula One racing fraternity.