Pino Allievi of La Gazzetta dello Sport had heard about the test in the McLaren, but knew no more than anyone else about Lauda’s plans.
Allievi said: “I had always got on well with Niki. On the Thursday before the Grand Prix in Canada in 1978, when he was driving for Brabham, he asked what I was doing that evening. When I said I didn’t know, he asked: ‘Why don’t we go to the cinema?’ So we went to the movies that night – I don’t remember which one – and this is the only time I’ve ever done that with a Grand Prix driver! So, in November 1981, he called me and said: ‘Why don’t you come to Vienna tomorrow afternoon?’ ‘Yes, okay, but to do what?’ ‘It’s a surprise.’ ‘Okay. But do I have to bring pyjamas and something?’ ‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘just a couple of things.’
I flew to Vienna and he was waiting for me when I arrived at about seven in the evening. We went to a restaurant and then to a nightclub; it was a fantastic night. We went back to the hotel – which he paid for – and I said to him: ‘Niki, what are we f***ing doing here?’ He said: ‘Tomorrow morning, I show you. Do you have the passport?’ ‘Yes, I have everything.’ ‘Okay, be ready at five o’clock in the morning.’