Niki Lauda: 1949 – 2019
Niki Lauda the former three times F1 world drivers champion has passed away after fighting a year of illness. The Austrian won his first drivers title with Ferrari in 1975. The 1976 season was looking all but secured for Ferrari and Lauda. However, during the German Grand Prix at Nurburgring, Lauda suffered a severe crash which nearly killed him. He suffered burns and damage to his lungs and faced a long recovery. Remarkably and against the wishes of his doctors, Lauda returned just two races later.
By then arch-rival and McLaren driver James Hunt had marched his way back into championship contention. At the last race of the season in Japan, Lauda and Hunt were separated by three points. Lauda refused to compete in the race citing the wet conditions as too dangerous. Hunt finished third to claim the 1976 drivers championship by one point.
Niki Lauda would go on to win the drivers championship in 1977 for Ferrari and later with McLaren in 1984. Lauda won a total of 25 races and secured 54 podiums during his F1 career. After his F1 days were over he became a successful businessman in the aviation industry.
Lauda returned to F1 as a non-executive advisor for Ferrari and later a non-executive Chairman for Mercedes F1. Over the last year, Lauda suffered from ill health. After a double lung transplant, he was expecting to return to work “soon”. That wasn’t to be.
Charismatic, forthright and always prepared to deliver a no-nonsense assessment Lauda is gone on another journey, one that all of us have to eventually make.