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2013 Hall of Fame: Niki Lauda

Niki Lauda bought his way into Formula 1 in the early ‘70s, but it was his skill and intelligence that kept him there.

hall of fame  2013 Hall of Fame: Niki Lauda

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.

Visit Niki Lauda’s page on our Hall of Fame website for features, videos and galleries.

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12 comments on 2013 Hall of Fame: Niki Lauda

  1. Richard Craig, 26 February 2013 13:30

    My favourite driver. Nothing short of a legend. To look at the photos of his hideously scarred face at the press conference at Monza in 1976 and to think he was about to get back into the car that inflcited those injuries on him, is incredible.

  2. Ray T, 26 February 2013 17:59

    I can’t think of an example of any other showing the bravery of Lauda, and the skills to come back to win again in 1984. There is a good reason why Hollywood is making a movie about him. The closest is Zanardi.

  3. John B, 26 February 2013 20:54

    The first race I went to was Lauda’s final GP in Adelaide in 85.
    It is with huge pride I can claim to have seen one of the all time greats race.

  4. Maurizio, 26 February 2013 22:42

    Thank you; Niki is simply the best

  5. John Read, 27 February 2013 02:45

    So much for the so-called ‘pay driver’ tag.

    Pay or no pay, they don’t come much better than Lauda.

    And in that last race in Adelaide, wasn’t he leading by miles before a DNF?

  6. Andrew Scoley, 27 February 2013 07:26

    John, I think you are confusing Lauda’s last drive with that of Rosberg the following year. Niki only led about a lap of the ’85 race before his carbon brake discs failed. In ’86, Rosberg led for a long time before suffering a rear puncture which he took to be transmission failure I think and stopped. Had he realised he may have got back into the race. However, I think he said that if need be he would let Alain Prost through to win. Mainly, knowing it was his last race, he wanted to have some fun.

  7. N.Weingart, 27 February 2013 15:27

    With all the to-do about “pay” drivers in F1 today it’s interesting to reflect on Lauda’s initial path to Grand Prix glory. This hopefully will inspire those who bare that label today.

  8. Giancarlo, 27 February 2013 18:02

    Niki Lauda revamped Ferrari and increased the success of F1 in the seventies. I was lucky to be present at Monza on thursday when he come back after the Ring crash and in Monaco 1978 when he miss the victory just for a puncture.
    Niki vs James was a great battle one of the best in modern racing, I look forward to watch Ron Howard’s movie.

  9. John Read, 27 February 2013 18:24

    Thanks Andrew,

    Absolutely correct.

    I shoudn’t rely on my memory. They were both red and white McLarens though!

  10. Tony Geran, 27 February 2013 21:54

    I am amazed “The Rat ” wasn’t already in your Hall of Fame. He revived Ferrari’s fortunes in the ’70′s and McLaren’s in the ’80′s. My memory is etched with the precision with which he drove that Ferrari at Brands in 1976 and the absloute commitment he displayed in qualifying and the warm up a fortnight later at the ‘Ring, a circuit he fought to have removed from the calendar, don’t forget. That was probably the most committed driving I’ve seen in my 40 something years of wathcing motor racing.

  11. Listerine, 4 March 2013 02:09

    Tony, your memory is more etched with thoughts of Niki at Brands in ’76 than Niki’s own memory was, even just eight years later!
    I was at the circuit to see Niki triumph there again in ’84, and on the podium Brian Jones said something like “you obviously have an affinity with Brands Hatch, Niki, this is your third win here”, to which the Rat replied “yes, I won in ’82, I’ve won today and… (pause)…. I don’t remember the other one”. Brian said “you won in ’76 as well”, a clearly unbothered Niki mumbled “oh” or whatever, and Brian quickly passed on to the next question. I’ve often wondered whether Niki was just pretending he couldn’t remember, because the racer in him didn’t really count it as an on-track victory (he was awarded it after Hunt’s disqualification, remember), and Brian Jones quickly clocked that was what he was thinking too. But if so, Niki was being harsh on himself, because – quite apart from the arguments over ’76 – he should have won in ’74 and was robbed by the pitlane farce near the end. He came close in ’78 too, only losing the lead to Reutemann near the flag when Bruno Giacomelli tripped him up. So Brands really was a circuit where, like so many circuits, Niki shone, overcoming the fact that he found it a difficult place to get a good set-up, I recall him saying.
    As with other comments, it was a pleasure to be there to see this true great win.

  12. Ray T, 4 March 2013 17:49

    I’ve seen reference to “Niki versus James” 1976, but I never understood this. Both drivers had a huge battle in 1976, but it was not against each other. Politics and personal lives were pulling at both of them. Lauda was battling Ferrari internal politics and love triangle, and McLaren’s Teddy Mayer was battling the FISA. Hunt’s personal life was a shambles.between his marriage and his self-abusive lifestyle.
    As much as I will get flamed for this, were it not for bad luck with a tractor and the Nurburgring, I doubt anyone would be paying much historical attention to James Hunt.

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