5 memorable moments of Niki Lauda in Formula 1
Niki Lauda is no more. The mere words bring pain and, a strange feeling, truth be told.
This is for the simple reason that Lauda didn't really leave F1 even as he had retired. Wondering how? This was evident from a simple strand of truth.
No other figure inside the Mercedes paddock seemed as cheery upon the sight of a Lewis Hamilton triumph, proving that in spite having not done anything physically to help Lewis win, he was there for him as also for the team.
For a man who himself was a triple world champion and heck, will always remain one, one wonders, how many can match his level of compassion and selflessness for a sport, including its pupil and heroes.
In the movie Rush, the character played by Daniel Bruhl says something rather heartlessly self-demeaning as Lauda, but still echoes the truth about who Niki really was: "God gave me an okay face, but a really good behind!"
How many today, it must be asked, can think of themselves from the perspective of being a pure racer, minus the glib and the fanfare that surrounds them? In an Instagram-friendly age where style often hijacks character instead of vice-versa, Lauda seemed to know a basic truth, that there was the only thing to him: racing, nothing else.
Now that among the most driven athletes of his time has departed but left us bereft of his mega albeit simple presence, let's rewind back to the Top Five Moments of Niki Lauda's career. So, shall we feel the "Rush!"
Last-Ever Formula 1 Entry
The home of the Australian Grand Prix today happens to be the Melbourne Park, Melbourne, in Victoria.
But back in the days when the sharks of F1 loomed large, in an age where racing was less about technology and as Senna had himself put it succinctly, "Pure Racing", there was the famous Adelaide street circuit.
It was here in 1985 where Niki Lauda would go onto drive his final-ever race.
But here's a point.
If you just think of it, it may take a while to recollect just a simple statement of fact that how much has motor-racing changed and aged- hasn't it, perhaps for the better or not, we leave to the public's discretion.
But in a season that was all about Keke Rosberg, the famous Finnish legend, often called the original "Flying Finn", the Adelaide Street circuit was also about the final-ever drive of a true champion of the sport- Niki Lauda.
Niki, although, didn't have a spectacular race, as he would begin from sixteenth on the grid and would race-retire due to a problem with the brakes of his McLaren. This would occur during Lap 57 of the 82-lap contest.
Niki Lauda Wins His First Race, 1974 Spanish Grand Prix
For starters, it's important to mention that the 1974 Spanish Grand Prix wasn't held at Barcelona. It was held North of Madrid at a track called Jarama, in Spain. This is a track, that with all due respect to F1's modern fans- especially part of a generation that has less regard for history- may want to know was checkered with 11 turns and was spread over an area of 3.85 kilometers.
So it was here well over four and a half decades back in time that Niki Lauda would clinch his first-ever win. If you think of it, it seems like a wrinkle in time.
Having said that, on April 28, 1974, Niki Lauda, aged just 25 won his maiden F1 race. At that time, he was driving for Ferrari. But on that incredible day, not only did Niki win the race, he also set the fastest lap at 1:20:83 on Lap 47.
In addition, it was the Austrian who was the pole-sitter for the race.
Winning World Title Number Three In 1977
Winning a race is an emotion that cannot be put into words for any driver. Then winning consistently is something that is even special. But that said, every racing driver dreams of winning a title.
Just that, in Niki Lauda's case, he won not one or two but three world titles.
On that ground, winning the 1977 world title was most important, it could be said of the three that the Austrian driver won.
Driving for Ferrari, Niki clinched 3 wins whilst competing against the likes of Mario Andretti, Jody Scheckter, and the likes. No mean feat that, right?
That same year, he would also go on to set 3 fastest laps in the season. But above anything, it was his consistent efforts at the Grands Prix of South Africa, Germany, and The Netherlands where Niki's sensational efforts for Ferrari stood out.
This was both, an admirable and inspirational feat in the sense that a few months back, in 1976, the world had seen the Italian Grand Prix, a race where Lauda proved just why he was the king of 'comebacks!'
Niki Lauda on James Hunt's Death
Niki Lauda and James Hunt personified an era where F1 was less about showbizz and more about the mortality that drivers constantly confronted.
Not Lewis, not Kimi, Vettel, Button, or Alonso, and not even Senna or Prost, Lauda arrived in the sport way back in the seventies, in fact, in 1971.
As you and I look around for heroes, often sufficiently compelled to believe that the number of world titles has put an end to this raging question- that after all, what really does constitute greatness- Lauda serves an example in restraint.
Not only were he a triple world champion, someone who had more 15 more wins than his closest rival James Hunt, and not to forget, 31 more podiums than the 1976 world champion, Lauda never demeaned his rival- did he?
On the contrary and if popular culture serves us well, it is believed (or said) Lauda said that "Hunt" was equally responsible for putting him back in the car, when referring to the 1976 comeback.
And yet, here's a man who may have lacked the flair and panache that Hunt so naturally brought to racing- let's not forget the Briton was no less talented himself- that Niki reserved respect for his greatest rival speaks highly of the man and his stature as a great. Does it not?
The greatest comeback in sporting history
Well, for starters, there was nothing August about the ill-fated date in the heart of Western Europe in an era where drivers were as they are today, mortals but above anything else, less reliant on technology and more driven by "pure racing" as none other than Ayrton Senna himself put it.
Not for nothing is the Nurburgring in Germany called the "green hell!"
Just that back in the day, precisely on 1 August 1976, Niki Lauda proved that the thing that makes F1 drivers "immortal" is their ability to reward a slice of luck with nothing but pure resilience.
And heck, it was a crazy trick of luck that saved Niki Lauda, who would crash in the opening lap itself on a track where for the lack of a better expression, "racing was battling with death", given the undrivable conditions then.
Yet, which driver, despite having been engulfed in flames, with a semi burned face, with countless physical anomalies would have managed to return other than Niki Lauda?
And while not only did Niki do just that, he would go on to finish fourth at the 1976 Italian Grand Prix- amid shock and awe- something that only he would've managed.
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