Niki Lauda, one of the greatest pilots to have ever existed, three times world champion, passed away this 20th May 2019. From his first steps into racing until the end of his career he was able to demonstrate skills most drivers would love to have. His brilliance during races allowed him to get back into any race and his decision making was one of a kind. Let’s dive a bit more into what made this genius.
The computer brain
Niki Lauda was not your typical racer, he found his way into racing late in his life and did not drive for the fame, the worship or the sensationalism that could come out of it. What pushed him above all was racing itself and being behind the wheel of a car he would love more than the pursuit of a world champion’s title.
He knew everything you have to know about a car and could feel it, the suspensions, the tires, the engine. He would stay hours on a track to make sure his machine had no more secrets for him and if he didn’t like a car, he would let you know. After driving the ferrari for the first time the manager asked him how it was to which he answered simply « car is sh*t ».
This knowledge and love for cars drove him to almost perfect decision making in a race and an ability to communicate all important information to his technical team. This led him to rise year after year in the championships and led to the point when he became world champion in 1975.
Niki Lauda is known throughout the world, but what is the most known about him is probably his accident during Nürburgring grand prix in 1976. It remains important to tell how much of an accomplishment was his comeback after this event. Niki Lauda decided at the end of the first turn to change to « slicks » tyres, a couple of minutes later he lost control of his car and went crashing into the wall before being hit by another racer. The car was set ablaze and could have easily exploded. Everybody feared the burns but they were not life-threatening. During the fire Niki Lauda inhaled lots toxic gazes from plastics, gazoline, all sort of dirt went into his lungs.
His treatment was hard and painful, but Niki wanted to race again, no matter the cost, he pushed himself and was back on the tracks only 6 weeks after his near-death experience. Even though he didn’t win the championship this year, which went to James Hunt his rival of the time, his comeback will always be remembered. He got retrograded to second pilot the year after because people were afraid he would never be as good as before… which did not stop him from winning his second world champion title.
Niki Lauda was one of a kind, a racer, a champion, a fighter, and most importantly, a true car lover.