Formula One racer, Andreas Nikolaus “Niki” Lauda took his last breath on 20 May 2019 and passed away in his sleep.
Niki Lauda made quite an impact on the sport and even after that. Lauda became a racing driver despite his family’s disapproval. Despite the criticism, Niki went on to pursue his passion.
His real breakthrough came in 1974 when Enzo Ferrari, owner of ‘Ferrari’ team, took interest in him and enquired and received positive feedback about him from his ‘BRM’ teammate Clay Regazzoni when the later rejoined ‘Ferrari’. Lauda was immediately signed by Ferrari who paid him enough to wipe out his debts.
The Austrian racer went on to win the F1 World Drivers’ Championship three times – 1975, 1977 and 1984. What’s more, Niki is currently the only driver to champion Ferrari and McLaren, two of the biggest names in racing.
Perhaps the most terrifying moment in Niki’s career took place in 1976 when he narrowly escaped death. His Ferrari crashed at the Nuerburgring in Germany and Niki suffered from serious burns. He was so far gone that a priest was called to perform the last rites. But perhaps fate has something more in store for him because he pulled through. But he made a dramatic return the same season which cemented him as one of the most iconic figures of Formula One. He finished second against his long-time rival, James Hunt. Their rivalry was so talked about that it made it into a film named ‘Rush’. The 2013 movie starred Daniel Bruhl as Lauda and Chris Hemsworth as Hunt.
Lauda retired for the first time in 1979 to focus on his other interests and businesses. He came out of retirement in 1982 and made a comeback with McLaren. Niki picked up third world championship trophy in 1984 against teammate Alain Prost by just half a point.
Even after retiring from racing, Niki Lauda kept himself busy. In 2001, he was appointed as a team manager to ‘Jaguar’ but even after two years, there was not much improvement and the entire team of over 100 people was made redundant. In September 2012, he was appointed the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team. Niki also took part in the negotiations of signing Lewis Hamilton. The two ended up forming a close bond.
Niki was also an aviation entrepreneur. He either founded or invested in airlines – Lauda Air (1979), Niki (2004) and LaudaMotion (2018).