Triple World Champion Niki Lauda, The Bravest Man In Formula 1, Dies At 70
Niki Lauda, Formula 1 legend and one of the most inspiring people in motorsport, died on Monday aged 70. Lauda passed away peacefully surrounded by his family, who released a statement commending his amazing life. “His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are and will remain unforgettable, his tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain,” the statement read. “A role model and a benchmark for all of us, he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather away from the public, and he will be missed.”
While most people will remember his horrendous crash at the German Grand Prix in 1976, it is his near-miraculous recovery and relentless push to be the best that mark him out as not only one of the most talented drivers ever but also undoubtedly the bravest. He had little time for nostalgia and self-pity so to honor his life we focus on his impressive list of achievements both on and off the track.
Lauda’s first F1 championship came in 1975 at the wheel of the Mauro Forghieri-designed Ferrari 312T. He nearly took the title once again the following year in a superhuman comeback after that Nürburgring crash, though narrowly missed out to James Hunt after missing two races. Lauda battled on undeterred where lesser men would have called it a day and won the drivers’ crown at Ferrari for the second time in 1977. His first retirement from the chaos of F1 happened in late 1979—typical of his unorthodoxy, he quit in the middle of a practice session!—after which he focused his considerable talent and energy focusing on his Austrian airline service instead.
The comparatively peaceful life didn’t last for long and he returned to Formula 1 for 1982, driving for McLaren this time, and soon silenced any would-be detractors by winning at Long Beach in only his third race back. Two years later in 1984, he became one of only a handful of drivers to secure three F1 world driver’s titles and he also became the first and only Austrian so far to win at his home Grand Prix.
Lauda retired from Formula 1 in 1985 but remained a central figure in the sport in various other capacities. He performed a consulting role Ferrari’s F1 team in the 1990s and in 2001 and 2002 was team principal at the Jaguar team. He was also a TV commentator and analyst for almost two decades and since 2012 was non-executive chairman of Mercedes AMG Petronas Lauda, a key figure at the multiple title-winning squad and instrumental in bringing Lewis Hamilton to the team. He also found time to write five books, manage an airline and be a father to his five children. His incredibly packed life and achievements are unlikely to ever be forgotten. Rest in peace Niki.
Images courtesy of Octane Photography and Wikimedia Commons