In the paddock of Formula One, not many drivers are remembered for an extended period of time.
Only those people who transcended their sport as a result of their talent, their charisma, and, of course, their accomplishments on the field of play during their athletic careers are included on that list.
Niki Lauda (1949-2019), an Austrian race car driver who won three world championships, possessed all these qualities.
He competed for Ferrari and McLaren, two of the most successful racing teams in the sport’s history, in 1975, 1977, and 1984.
He is the main character of this brand-new Motorbli article, and by the time you finish reading it, you will undoubtedly be aware of aspects of his life and career that were previously unknown to you.
On February 22, 1949, Lauda was born in the city of Vienna, which is the capital of Austria.
He was educated in the business world because he came from a wealthy family, which may have influenced his decision to pursue that career path.
Even though his family had hoped for him to follow in his father’s footsteps and work in the paper manufacturing industry, he decided to follow his heart and pursue his dream of becoming a driver when he was 19 years old, even though this choice did not meet with their approval.
Despite this, he got his start in Formula Vee, a competition in which he raced single-seaters that, in turn, used the mechanics of the Volkswagen Beetle.
In later years, he would race in the championships for Formula 3 and Formula 2, respectively.
However, for him to participate in the latter, which was not so simple, he needed to apply for a bank loan to continue on his way to the Grand Circus.
Along with the rest of the March team, he completed the task.
During his first two years of professional racing, 1971 and 1972, he was a member of the team above.
The year after that, he switched to BRM, and it was with that team that he earned his first points at the Belgian Grand Prix, which was held at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
He crossed the finish line in fifth place overall.
When asked by the owner of the team, Enzo Ferrari, about him, he was recommended by his teammate Clay Regazzoni, who also signed that year with the Prancing Horse.
The following year, he became a member of the Ferrari team as a result of this recommendation.
In the same year, 1974, he would go on to earn his first victory while he was behind the wheel of the legendary red car.
It was during the fourth round of the championship, which took place at the Spanish Grand Prix.
He added one more victory to his tally during that particular season by winning the Dutch race on the Zandvoort circuit.
Nevertheless, he was plagued by irregularity, which ultimately prevented him from taking home the first crown. He finished in fourth place with 38 points in his bag at the end of the race.
The year after that, a lot of different things happened. Nevertheless, the beginning was not the dream because he could not move up from the sixth position after the first four dates.
After getting off to a slow start, he went on to win three races in a row, and after the final competition, he has crowned the champion on the asphalt track at the Watkins Glen racetrack in New York.
He accomplished a new victory, from which he etched his name into the annals of history in glittering gold letters.
The combination of Lauda and Ferrari appeared unbeatable and could win multiple championships in a row until they established their complete dominance.
The fact that he won four of the first six races that were held in 1976 is evidence that this is the case. Even 61 points separated him from Jody Scheckter, who finished second.
Everything went horribly wrong at the German Grand Prix when the Austrian champion lost control of his car at the Bergwerk corner of the Nürburgring circuit, crashed into the crash barriers, and caught fire as a result of the collision.
He was saved from certain death by fellow motorists Harald Ertl, Guy Edwards, and Arturo Merzario, who dragged him from the vehicle.
However, this did not prevent him from suffering the aftereffects of the burns on his body, particularly his face.
Despite everything that had happened, he was back in the game only six weeks later.
During that period, the British driver James Hunt took advantage of the situation to get closer to Lauda in the standings.
The conclusion of that championship will live in infamy due to the following events: Hunt arrived at the Suzuka GP three units ahead of his competition; during the race, it rained as heavily as was rarely remembered; and the track appeared to be highly wet to the defending champion.
After only a few laps, the Austrian driver pulled out of the race, and his rival went on to win the Formula One world championship.
While in the lead, a nail got stuck in one of his tires, and he had to fight a significant obstacle to keep his position.
Because of this setback, he was forced to make a remarkable comeback to the third position, which earned him the title by just one point more than Lauda did.
Because of how much people talked about that season, it was depicted in the movie Rush (2013), released in theaters.
Following that demanding year both on and off the track, Niki Lauda would eventually experience the sweetness of success for the second time in the form of a second world championship.
Despite this brand-new achievement with Ferrari, the relationship between the team and the driver has been severely harmed due to the events that took place in the final race of the previous year.
After finding out that the Italian team had signed an unproven driver named Gilles Villeneuve to compete in the Canadian Grand Prix in a third car, the two-time world champion announced his retirement.
Despite everything, Lauda displayed an unquestionable level of consistency, as evidenced by the fact that he signed a total of ten podiums, consisting of three wins, six-second places, and a third place, and he said his goodbyes grandly on the track.
After he completed everything, he became a member of the Brabham-Alfa Romeo team.
He raced for this team for the next two seasons (1978-1979), and in the first of those seasons, despite not having a particularly competitive car, he signed a significant role and finished fourth in the final driver standings.
He raced for this team until 1979.
After the continuation year brought him some disappointing results, he decided to retire and concentrate on his business instead.
Between 1979 and 1981, he stepped away from racing on circuits and in Formula 1 to devote his full attention to a charter flight company called Lauda Air, which he had founded in April of the first year mentioned.
He was in charge for a significant portion of the company’s history until finally selling it in 2001 to the partner with the vast majority of its shares: Austrian Airlines.
On the other hand, in 2003, he established a second one under his name, Niki.
This one was shut down in 2017, and the following year he purchased another one that he called Laudamotion.
Ryanair later bought Laudamotion out from under him.
When he returned to racing in 1982, however, he did not compete independently because he had already joined Mclaren’s team.
However, he did not have an easy time getting in because he had to pass a test with the British squad and persuade the team’s main sponsor that he could win again.
Both of these things were difficult for him. He quickly demonstrated this fact in the third Grand Prix after his comeback, which took place in Long Beach.
He finished his comeback in fifth place with two victories (the one mentioned above at Long Beach and another at Silverstone), a third-place finish in the Swiss GP, and a total of 30 points to his name.
His best finish came in the Swiss GP.
Nothing had anything to do with the next race, where he could only place tenth despite having finished on the podium twice in the previous races.
The good things did not take long to come, and one of them was winning his third and final title as the F1 world champion in 1984.
It was not easy, especially considering Alain Prost, his teammate at the time, was also his greatest rival.
And the difference between the winner and the runner-up in that championship was only half a point—the smallest margin of victory seen in anyone’s lifetime.
The high level of his French competitor was no match for his five victories, four second-place finishes, and a fourth-place finish, which tipped the scales in his favor.
In 1985, he had a terrible job; by that year, he had already retired eleven times.
As a result, he decided to give up competing for good.
Despite this, he maintained ties to the championship in the following years; he returned to Ferrari and worked there as a Technical Advisor. At his suggestion, the German Michael Schumacher was brought on board by the team in 1995.
Schumacher went on to win seven world championships. Five years later, between 2000 and 2004, a perfect combination led to five consecutive victories in the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.
This was the payoff for the perfect combination.
In addition, he worked as a commentator for the German television channel RTL and managed the Jaguar team in 2001 and 2002.
However, neither of those jobs was very successful for him, and he ultimately lost his job along with several other employees.
Between 2012 and 2019, the year of his passing, he worked as a technical advisor for the Mercedes team, which was the tremendous dominant force in the hybrid era.
He held 10% of the shares in the Mercedes team. Last but not least, he promised to give us all a farewell hug in Vienna on May 20, 2019.
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