Formula 1

He was almost burned alive, but after 41 days behind the wheel. As we remember Niki Lauda

A year ago there was Niki Lauda, three – time world champion. What do we know about the legendary racer, which Hollywood made into a movie?

Nicky was born into a wealthy Austrian family, but it did not help his career in Motorsport. Father and grandfather of a future champion strictly opposed to his passion for racing, considering that he has to go in their footsteps in the business. Lauda just didn’t give the money, without which the young pilot was simply impossible to get to the top. But the ambitious Austrians such difficulties are not confused. In 1970, Nicky was able to take solid credit (in fact, on parole and a guarantee of your loud family), to buy a place in March for the season-1971 in the “Formula 2”. Success in the youth series prompted the team owners to the decision to try Lauda and the first “Formula”. In 1972 he performed in the 12 “Grand Prix” – but without significant results due to weak machines. Realizing what to do the next step, and not languish in “Marche”, the driver took another loan – and with it, moved to BRM.

Nicki later admitted that early career he was sometimes overwhelmed by the desperation – to fight for victory, he could not, debts accumulated, prospects – was not. There were thoughts and about suicide, but Lauda managed to fight them off. And his natural racing talent and strong-willed, iron eventually helped to overcome all difficulties.

In 1974, Nicks was in a Ferrari.


Here he was a little lucky – Enzo Ferrari first invited (or rather, returned) in the “Scuderia” partner Lauda in BRM Swiss Glue Regazzoni. And he, in turn, drew attention to the Commendatore himself Nicky. Plus the Austrians believed the new Manager of Ferrari Luca di Montezemolo. Neither he nor the Enzo in the end is not wrong, daring to call a command of an unknown pilot with no significant achievements.

Stiffness and straightness of Laude is not just spoiled his relations with other people, but if his daughter was only on hand – Ferrari, the man himself is strong-willed, imperious and despotic, appreciated such qualities of the character of his rider. The tale of how Nicky after the first tests for the “Scuderia” called the car “shit” no not the bike. For similar statements in his position it required considerable courage. But Lauda knew what was going on. And was ready to answer for his words. Innate flair and extremely rare even for top pilots the ability to provide the engineers and the engineers ‘ feedback also played a role. Montezemolo then noted that Lauda’s comments, his advice on the finalization of the car, its filigree work, with settings really help “Scuderia”. “In fact, at the time he made the team even more than Schumacher in the 90 years,” said Luke.

Sooner or later it had to give results.


Latest by the time the title Ferrari already won in 1964 by the efforts of John Surtees. By the mid-70’s “Scuderia” was the most famous and popular “stable” (as indeed now), but conceded to “Lotus”, “McClaren”, the “Tyrrell”, “Brabham” in the fight for trophies… Lauda was able to change it. The first race for the Italian team, he finished second (Argentina-1974). The fourth won (Spain). Problems with the technique did not allow him to finish in the last five “Grand Prix” of the season, but by 1975, in a Ferrari pulled reliability, and Nicky did what he could neither Regazzoni nor anyone else of the pilots “Scuderia” for the last 11 years – was the best overall. And won his first title.


From Lauda had every chance to win in 1976, but the “Grand Prix of Germany” of the season almost cost him his life. The bend in the “Bergwerk” at a speed of about 220 km/h the car got off the track, after which the car crashed into the wall and flashed like a torch. “Lauda was stuck in the car, he was screaming in pain and fear, and then lost consciousness,” recalled Arturo Merzario is one of four pilots who pulled the champion from the twisted burning remnants of the car. The names of the others – Brett Lunger, Harald Ertl (they crashed into the car in Lauda, but without serious consequences for themselves) and guy Edwards (stayed around to help). Till the doctors and firefighters, these guys were fighting for the life of Lauda yourself – did heart massage and respiration “mouth to mouth”. “How do I look?” – the first thing he asked Nicky, when I woke up.

Lauda suffered severe burns to the face – at the moment of impact he lost his helmet, and the flames disfigured by the scars of the head of the driver, depriving him of the ear and hair pieces. Many thought that the season’s over for Nicky, but he didn’t think to take a big break! No matter how opposed the doctors, the Austrian was in the hospital for a couple of weeks, and after minor plastic surgery (“they Say I made a new eyelid from the skin of my ass,” without complexes noted then Lauda) required statement. In the end, he missed only two “Grand Prix” – Austria and Holland. In Italy, after just 41 days after the accident at the “nürburgring”, Lauda – with the taped bandages head is back in the paddock and again got behind the wheel.

In the race “Monza”, he became the fourth.

However, to defend the title from Nicky still did not. Intense rivalry with James hunt ended on the last “Grand Prix” – in Japanese is “Suzuka”. And when before the start poured a terrible rain, Lauda refused to race – he considered it unsafe. This whole Niki – dedication to the fight and fanatical passion for the victories he always compensated for cold prudence and common relation to the tolerable risk. Almost burned a few months before that, Lauda was not willing again to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the title. In the end, James finished third, ahead of Austrians just one point and became the champion. Later the history has produced the excellent film “Race” is the best of the “Formula 1” in General and one of the best sports dramas in principle.


Refusal Laude from participation in the race in Japan ruined his relationship with the leadership of the Ferrari. This did not prevent the Austrian reserves to win the championship-1977 – despite the fact that Nicky had a fight with the “Scuderia” and left the team two races before the end of the season. In 1978 he moved to the “Brabham”, but the results are “stable” fell, and after the failure in 1979, the Austrian abruptly ended career.

For the first time in his life he decided to go into business as he wanted his father and grandfather. On the earned money (debts on loans paid Lauda in 1975) Nicky in 1980, established airline, Lauda Air. At its peak, it owned a fleet of 66 ships and made flights across the globe – from Europe to Australia, the Americas, Asia… When in 1991 the “Boeing-767”, flying from Bangkok to Vienna, crashed over in Thailand (died 223 people), Lauda was among the first to arrive at the scene of the crash. The cause of the tragedy was the sudden transition of one of the engines in reverse to the flight level. However, what caused it, remained unclear.

The disaster has seriously affected the fate of the company. Lauda Air caught in the crisis, began to incur losses, and eventually in 2000 was sold to Austrian Airlines, and in 2013-m ceased to exist. Interestingly, the love for aviation Lauda was not finished. He later founded another two companies – Niki Lauda and Motion. But in the end broke up and they first bought the Air Berlin, the second RyanAir. Both now eliminated.

And Yes, if you’re curious – Lauda himself sat behind the wheel. Not on scheduled flights, of course. But Nicky knew how to pilot not only racing cars.


Base Lauda Air Niki quickly put in front of a heavy fact – he will soon run out of money. The development of the company required money, and make them only proven way – participation in the tournament. In the end, having missed three years, Lauda decided to return and signed a contract with “McLaren”, which just had headed by Ron Dennis.

In 1982, he again came out at the start. And in 1984, became a three-time world champion. The role of Lauda in the development team was comparable to what he did in Ferrari. Nicky wasn’t just flying on the track – he took an active part in the work on the car. All these efforts have paid off handsomely. However, in 1985 it collapsed overnight – McLaren couldn’t produce a reliable car, the results disappeared, the Austrian only three times reached the finish line (and one win), and after these failures the newly retired. Now – finally.


However, by the time Lauda was able to significantly improve their financial situation and never needed the money. In addition to the three titles, he left another mark in history, significantly raised the incomes of riders. If the first year in a Ferrari Nicky received a total of $ 50,000, the “McLaren” paid him 1 million! Fabulous for those times money – especially in sports. Of course, against the background of growing Lauda fees and fees of other top pilots.

He Nicky was not limited only to salary. He actively worked with the sponsors (that, too, was still a novelty). And skillfully sold his name. So, the invariable attribute of the image of the driver after the accident on the “nürburgring” has become a red cap – I tried to cover the burns on her face. For the right to place your logo on this cap, individual companies were willing to pay $ 1.5 million a year! Moreover, this situation persisted until the last time – until his death Nicky.


After leaving the race, Lauda had left the paddock. He continued to be a significant, noticeable and important part of the “Formula 1”. In the early ‘ 90s, Niki seriously contributed to the release of the “Ferrari” of crisis – he is back to the team Montezemolo, and later came Jean Todt. In the formation of “Mercedes”Yu is the best “stable” of the last decade, is also a lot of merit Lauda, who until recently was adviser to “silver”. Lauda managed to delight us with his work as a commentator on TV, expert opinions, just their interview…

But all that ended.

The consequences of the accident in Germany did not immediately impact on the Laud. But affected. Poisoning with burning products has affected his lungs and body in General, and with age the problem worse. Nicky twice transplanted kidney and one lung. But the last operation have not significantly helped. A refresher in 2018, pneumonia and influenza, Lauda was unable to recover from complications.

20 may 2019, he died in a clinic in Zurich, surrounded by their friends and relatives. He was 70 years old.

source: “Soviet sport”