5 things you may not have known about Niki Lauda
#4 He started as a pay driver
In the modern-day iteration of Formula One, pay drivers are looked upon with scorn and derision; most of them secure their seats as a result of their sponsorships, and many in recent years have not lived up to the potential they showed on the junior circuit.
But several of the sport’s best drivers started out that way – among them Lauda and Michael Schumacher.
Lauda’s family never wanted him to race cars, and disapproved of his career choice. The grandson of a wealthy businessman, Lauda started racing minis on his own dime and then to Formula Vee (Volkswagen’s junior Formula racing series). He then drove sports cars, but despite his skill stagnated in motorsports.
He faced so much opposition from his family that he would eventually cut off all contact with them. Now pushing for a further motorsports career and short of funds, Lauda took out a loan of £30,000 on his own life insurance policy to race in Formula 2.
Then, after a lacklustre first season in Formula One, despite impressing several on the circuit, Lauda had to buy himself onto another team – BRM. It was after this that his former teammate at that team, Swiss driver Clay Regazzoni left for Ferrari – and spoke so highly of Lauda to owner Enzo Ferrari that he hired the Austrian, and cleared the debts he had amassed.
And the rest, as they say, is history.