The 70s – Niki Lauda the real F1 hero

Niki Lauda the Real F1 Hero

Posted on January 7, 2009 by pop&crisps

Kim P Moody watches Formula One Racing

Well done to Lewis Hamilton for winning the 2008 F1 World Championship, with McLaren, and his ensuing MBE. We won’t mention his friends in the Toyota team …

But back in the 70s we had real F1 heroes, like Niki Lauda. Lauda’s first F1 race was the Austrian Grand Prix in 1971, driving for the STP March Racing Team. He didn’t get his first race win until the 1974 Spanish Grand Prix when he was driving for Ferrari.

He won his first World Championship in 1975, but his most spectacular year was 1976, again with Ferrari. By the end of the ninth round of the 76 season, the British Grand Prix, Lauda had twice as many points as his nearest rival. His run of success came to a sudden halt on the second lap of round ten, the German Grand Prix, at the long Nurburgring circuit.

Lauda’s car spun off the circuit with a suspected mechanical failure. It hit an embankment, rolled back onto the track and was struck by the Surtees-Ford driven by Brett Lunger. The Ferrari burst into flames and Lauda was trapped. Other drivers ran to his aid and pulled him from the burning wreck. He suffered severe burns to his head, and his lungs were damaged by hot, toxic gases. Although he could stand after the crash, he later fell into a coma. His condition was so bad that the worst was feared and a priest administered the last rites.

Lauda returned to the track just six weeks later, having missed only two races, and finished forth in the Italian Grand Prix. James Hunt had reduced Lauda’s lead and won the championship by one point. Because of his determination and courage, Lauda is regarded as one of the bravest people in Formula 1.

Lauda won the championship again in 1977, and retired in 1979 to operate his charter airline. In 1982 he returned to F1 and won his third world title in 1984. Lauda has only ever had sufficient reconstructive surgery to get his eyelids to close, and now he is always seen in public wearing a red cap to cover the scars on his head. At the end of 1985 he retired again and returned to running Lauda Air. In 2001/2002 he managed the ill fated Jaguar F1 team.

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