Andreas Nikolaus “Niki” Lauda, 3 time Formula 1 world champion passed away at the age of 70. The Austrian died overnight on Monday, peacefully, surrounded by his family eight months after receiving a lung transplant. He may have gone, but he will always be remembered for what he was and what he has done to the sport.
“Giving up is something a Lauda doesn’t do”
Born in Vienna, Austria, Niki Lauda pursued a career in racing – much against the will of his family. He even took a bank loan to secure his spot in the BRM Formula 1 Team. Niki was hugely admired, liked and respected by the Formula 1 fraternity. He’s won the world championship 3 times – 1975, 1977 and 1984. He is currently the only driver to have won for Ferrari and McLaren, the sport’s most successful teams. Lauda is known for his exceptional comeback after a crash in 1976 German Grand Prix that almost left him dead.
During Lap 2 of the 1976 German Grand Prix, Niki Lauda’s Ferrari 312T2 suffered a massive crash leaving the car in flames. He was trapped in the burning car for 55 seconds before the rescue could arrive – forced to inhale toxic gases that damaged his lungs. He also suffered severe burns to his face. Yet, to everybody’s surprise, Niki Lauda returned to the Grid just 6 weeks after his crash – to the Italian Grand Prix. He scored the 4th place finish ahead of his replacement, Carlos Reutemann. Lauda conceded victory to James Hunt by a mere 1 point after deciding to retire from a wet Japanese Grand Prix.
“Whenever I see something that challenges me, I take it on”
Niki Lauda then went on to win the championship in 1977 season and after 2 seasons with Brabham, retired in 1979. He started his Airline, Lauda Air before making a comeback for McLaren in 1984, where he would win the championship after a nail-biting competition with teammate Alain Prost. He then retired from Formula 1 for the last time in 1985 for pursuing his business interests.
In 1993, he took a managerial – consulting role in Ferrari. He was also the team principal for Jaguar Racing for 2001 and 2002. In September 2012, he was appointed as a non-executive chairman at Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team. He played a vital role in signing up Lewis Hamilton to the team.
Formula 1 and the Motorsport fraternity – on the whole, has lost a great racing driver, a legend in his own right who was an inspiration to many. Rest In Peace, Niki.
Image, Courtesy of Autosport.com