This morning I woke up to hear the heartbreaking news that Niki Lauda had passed away. The Austrian had a lung transplant 8 months ago, which is why he hasn't been in the Mercedes garage for a long time. Niki has also been confirmed to have had other poor health conditions, possibly related to the kidney which he had donated to him in 2005 from his girlfriend at the time. I feel now is the best time for a tribute to be made to this legend of Motorsport.
As many of you know; Niki Lauda was a 3 time Formula One world champion, also well known for his championship battle with James Hunt in 1976. That same year that Lauda had a terrible accident at the Nürburgring where he missed only two races recovering from the fire that had burned his whole body. A video produced by Formula One can be seen below, explaining his accident and incredible comeback:
Let's take a look at Niki's championship years:
Niki Lauda had a tough first 9 races for Ferrari. He remained mainly midfield in his first four races, having a highest finish of 4th place. From then on, he won four of the next five races. Later on in the season he was able to bring the Ferrari home to win their first constructors championship in 11 years, and won the drivers championship after a third place finish in Monza, which was the penultimate race. He was also the first man to ever drive the Nürburgring Nordschleife (which was two miles longer than it is today, at the time) in under seven minutes! What an amazing year!
Carlos Reutemann was the man that replaced Lauda for the two races he missed in 1976 after his crash due to being in hospital. For the 1977 season, Carlos Reutemann was the Austrians enemy. A quote from Niki says, "Instead of taking pressure off me, they put on even more by bringing Carlos Reutemann into the team." He also said that "We couldn't stand each other".
The season hadn't been won by outright pace, but through consistent results, which allowed him to take the crown at the third to last race in USA. Due to being unhappy with the teammate situation; Lauda had already announced he was leaving Ferrari at the end of the season. However, due to winning the drivers championship three races early, he left the team early since Ferrari had already found a replacement who was driving a third car. The replacement was Gilles Villeneuve.
Niki Lauda. Image Credit: F1
This was the year that Lauda had Alain Prost as his teammate. At first, Lauda was skeptical about having Prost as his teammate, but actually ended up building a very good relationship with him. Out of the 16 races Mclaren (Lauda's new team) entered, they won 12 - with Lauda winning 5, and Prost 7. The Mclaren driver said that beating Prost also gave him more motivation. Lauda won the championship to Alain Prost at the Portuguese Grand prix by half a point after qualifying 11th.
Prost was better at qualifying the Lauda was, putting the car on pole. Lauda was able to pass car after car to finish in a very lucky P2 (behind is teammate) after a controversial brake failure for Mansell. This half a point was all that Lauda needed to win the championship, which came from the half race at Monaco that awarded half points for all finishers.
Niki lauda in his 1984 Mclaren. Image Credit: Wikipedia.
So there we have it, the seasons that Lauda won the championship - some by very close margins. Some other impressive roles he has held was the above mentioned non-executive chairman for Mercedes (starting from 2012) and an airline Entrepreneur! Bet you didn't see that one coming!
I would like to end off this tribute with my own farewell to Niki Lauda, one of the most iconic drivers in the history of Motorsport, and an absolute gentleman. We will all miss your wise race predictions on the grid before every race that you flew out to. On behalf of the whole of DriveTribe and Motorsport Community, Rest in Peace Niki🙏.
Here is a collection of photos of Niki Lauda that many teams and drivers have posted on social media for their farewells - Credits can be found in the comments: