Niki Lauda bought his way into Formula 1 in the early ‘70s, but it was his skill and intelligence that kept him there.
He helped to drag Ferrari into the modern age and won the first of his World Championships in 1975. The next year he was romping to his second when he suffered a horrific crash at the Nürburgring, leaving him badly burned and close to death.
He was back mere weeks later at Monza, driving though pain and fear to finish an incredible fourth. His friend James Hunt would win the championship that year, but Lauda would claim it back in 1977 before he and Ferrari fell out of love.
After spending two seasons at Brabham he retired to concentrate on his airline, but returned with McLaren to win his third title in 1984, carefully outdueling team-mate Alain Prost.
Lauda’s early legacy is one of speed and confidence, but post-accident he relied on his smarts to win, finishing in 1985 with 25 Grand Prix victories. Coming back to fight for the title in 1976 is one of the most courageous efforts the sport has seen.
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