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  • Jamie Rogers

Niki Lauda, Legend and Hero

Then and now

I was only five years old when the Ferrari 312T2 of Niki Lauda crashed at the Nurburgring, of course I was too young to really understand the implications, or the severity of his injuries, all I really knew at that time was that it gave James Hunt the chance to fight for the Formula 1 World Drivers Championship.

The damage wasn't so much about the burn injuries, but that he'd inhaled some seriously nasty toxic fumes from the burning fibreglass and lord knows what else, it was the damage inside that was the problem, not the melted ear or disfigured face.

I guess the same as any child, once that season was done, with Hunt just squeaking a WDC, I kinda forgot about the rest of the drivers, probably Niki too unless he was on the news or something, but 1976 was an epic year for Niki, and it's probably one that cemented his reputation for life.

1976 German Grand Prix

Niki laudas Ferrari 312T2 after the shunt at the Nurburgring
The aftermath of Lauda's horrific shunt

When you look at the picture above, you can't even comprehend how someone could walk away from that wreckage, never mind want to get back in to it in just 40 days; Lauda did just that.

John Watson, team mate to Lauda described his comeback as "the most courageous act of any sportsman", and you'd have to agree; covered in bandages, barely able to breathe, Lauda tackled the high speed Monza circuit (no doubt that it was the Italian Grand Prix that put the extra pressure on him) with his regular speed.

The fact that he'd died (twice) in the big shunt in Germany, seemingly put to one side.

Modern Formula 1 with Mercedes

Niki lauda, the face of mercedes f1
Niki in his role as non-executive Chairman at Mercedes

For many of us, this is how we'll remember Niki, in his role as non-exec chairman for Mercedes Formula 1, where he was known for his honesty and candour - no PC bullshit here, if he had something to say, he'd say it.

Toto Wolff: "Niki bought precious clarity and candour to modern Formula 1", and clearly he was hugely respected because of it - there has been an outpouring of grief with Niki's loss, everyone in the F1 paddock has had their say, and each tribute is moving.


Ferrari: "Everyone at Ferrari is deeply saddened at the news of the death of our dear friend Niki Lauda.

"He won two of his three world championships with us and will always be in our hearts and in those of all Ferrari fans.

"Our sincere condolences go to all his family and friends."


Former world champion Damon Hill: "He was a remarkable individual in every way. I was certainly one person that looked at Niki and thought 'I'll never be half the man he was.

"His career was stylised and characterised by his intelligent approach. When he came up against Alain Prost, he knew he couldn't beat him on speed so he beat him on tactics.

"He was thoughtful, intelligent, pragmatic and just got the job done."


Former world champion Jenson Button: "A legend has left us. Rest in peace Niki."


Red Bull driver Max Verstappen: "Shocked by the loss of Niki Lauda. He was a true legend in our sport and someone I had great respect for. May he rest in peace."


Red Bull team principal Christian Horner: "Rest in peace to an F1 legend that I was lucky enough to call a friend. A very sad day for the entire motorsport community.

"All at Red Bull Racing share their thoughts with Niki's family and friends at this time. Godspeed Niki."


McLaren: "Niki will forever be in our hearts and enshrined in our history."


Former driver Johnny Herbert: "A real loss to sport and a big hole in our hearts. Courageous, chatty, and extremely funny.

"I am going to miss you being around the F1 paddock but the legend of Niki Lauda will live on, because you were a very, very special man. Thanks for all the memories."


The death of Niki Lauda
Niki Lauda 22nd February 1949 - 20th May 2019

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