Niki Lauda. Source: Pinterest

Andreas Nikolaus “Niki” Lauda (February 22, 1949 – May 20, 2019) was an Austrian Formula One driver and businessman. He won the World Championship three times, in 1975, 1977, and 1984. He also came close to winning the 1976 championship despite a devastating collision at the German Grand Prix that left him with terrible burns and nearly killed him.

Source: Planet f1

He then became the chairman of the Mercedes Grand Prix.

Formula One Career

Lauda was born from a wealthy family and was considered one of Formula One’s first paid drivers, but his family strongly opposed him racing, thus he began F1 with a bank loan. However, he was discovered to be talented and was able to secure a seat with the March team in both F1 and Formula 2, making his debut at his home event in 1971. In 1973, he trialled with the struggling BRM squad, but despite demonstrating his pace, he only scored two points that season.

His career took a turn in 1974. Clay Regazzoni, a former BRM colleague, returned to Ferrari, and because Ferrari lacked a second driver, they approached Regazzoni about Lauda. Regazzoni believed in Lauda’s abilities and signed him to Ferrari, allowing Lauda to pay off his bank loans. Lauda had a strong debut season, starting with a second-place and finishing with two wins and nine pole positions despite retiring five times in a row.

Source: Formula1

The following season was even better, with Lauda dubbing it “the unbelievable year” The season began badly, with only five points after four races, but the next five races brought four triumphs and a second place. Lauda also won the last race, securing his first championship. The championship appeared to be in Lauda’s grasp after a solid start to the 1976 season, with podium finishes in the first seven races.

Lauda, on the other hand, was involved in a devastating crash at the Nürburgring, in which he nearly died in his flaming car. He was given last rites because his chances of survival were so poor. Lauda was later determined to have been using a helmet that did not comply with the standards. For additional comfort, the helmet was bigger and had more padded foam. The foam compressed during the accident, allowing the helmet to slip off Lauda’s head.

If he had been wearing a standard helmet, the helmet would have had a better chance of staying on his head and preventing facial burns. Despite missing two races, Lauda returned after only 39 days and nearly won the title, being beaten by James Hunt after retiring (on safety concerns) in the very wet conditions at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Source: Motorsport

Lauda’s rehabilitation was such that he dominated the 1977 season, collecting three victories and six seconds while skipping the final two races because Ferrari intended to give Gilles Villeneuve a chance in a third vehicle. However, after three brilliant years with Ferrari, Lauda left the team in 1978 to join Brabham.

He drove well, earning seven podiums but retiring in every other race. The Brabham car was bad in 1979, retiring after retirement, and Lauda only collected four points before retiring from F1 before the Canadian Grand Prix, bored of driving in circles.

Lauda returned to the McLaren squad in 1982, after being persuaded by then-team principal Ron Dennis to accept a $3 million pay. On his comeback, he had a successful first season, winning twice and finishing fifth in the championship. Even worse, after scoring ten points in the first two races, he only managed two more in the next thirteen races, failing to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix.

1984 was a far better year for Lauda, who won the title from Alain Prost by only half a point, the lowest margin on record, with five wins and four seconds. Lauda retired for the second and final time after a disappointing 1985 season (with a win).

Records

He won the F1 World Drivers’ Championship three times, in 1975, 1977, and 1984, and is the only driver in F1 history to have won the title for both Ferrari and McLaren, the sport’s two most successful constructors.

Source: Getty Images
  • 24 Hours Nürburgring: (1st,1973)
  • 1000 km of Spa Francorchamps: (1st,1973)
  • 4 hours of Monza: (1st,1973)
  • 4 hours of Zandvoort: (1st,1974), (3rd,1972)
  • Diepholz SRP/GT: (1st,1970)
  • 6 hours of Nurbugring: (2nd,1971)
  • 9 hours of Kyalami: (3rd,1972)
  • Taurenpokal Salzburgring: (1st,1971)

Life after Formula One

Lauda Air, his first airline, was launched in April 1979. He was removed from the Lauda Air board of directors in 2000. In late 2003, Lauda purchased the defunct Aero Lloyd Austria operation and established Niki as a new airline. He had a commercial pilot’s licence and served as captain on his airline on occasion.

Source: DW

While he was the airline manager at Lauda Air, Luca di Montezemolo appointed him as a consultant at Ferrari to revitalise the team. He was appointed Chairman of Jaguar in mid-2001, however, he was fired following the 2002 season.

Personal life

Lauda had two kids with his first wife, Chilean-Austrian Marlene Knaus (married 1976, divorced 1991): Mathias, a race driver, and Lukas, who served as Mathias’ manager. He married Birgit Wetzinger, a flight attendant for his airline, in 2008. She gave a kidney to Lauda in 2005 after the kidney he received from his brother in 1997 failed. Birgit gave birth to twins in September 2009.

Source: Biography line

On August 2, 2018, it was announced that Lauda had successfully received a lung transplant in his home country of Austria. Lauda spoke German, English, and Italian fluently. Lauda was born into a Roman Catholic family.

Rеаl Nаmе/Full NаmеAndreas Nikolaus “Niki” Lauda
Nісk Nаmе/Сеlеbrаtеd NаmеNiki Lauda
Віrth РlасеVienna, Austria
Dаtе оf Віrth/Віrthdау22 February 1949
Аgе/Ноw Оld70 years old (died 20 May 2019)
Неіght/Ноw Таll5 feet 7 inches (1.7 m) 
Wеіght65 kg (143 lbs)
Раrеntѕ NаmеFаthеr –Ernst-Peter Lauda
Моthеr –Elisabeth Lauda
ЅіblіngѕFlorian Lauda
NаtіоnаlіtуAustrian
Маrіtаl ЅtаtuѕMarried
WifeBirgit Wetzinger (m. 2008–2019), 
Marlene Knaus (m. 1976–1991)
Кіdѕ/Сhіldrеn NаmеMathias Lauda, Mia Lauda, 
Max Lauda, Lukas Lauda, 
Christoph Lauda
РrоfеѕѕіоnRace car driver, Entrepreneur,
Actor, Businessperson, Aircraft pilot,
Commentator, Author
Nеt Wоrth$100 million
Lаѕt UрdаtеdЈuly 2021

Death and legacy

Lauda died in his sleep on May 20, 2019, at the age of 70, at the University Hospital of Zürich, where he had been having dialysis therapy for kidney difficulties following a period of ill health. According to a statement published on his behalf by his family, he died quietly, surrounded by family members.

Several current and former drivers and teams paid tribute to him on social media and during the Wednesday press conference session preceding the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix. Before the race, there was a moment of silence. Throughout the weekend, fans and drivers were encouraged to wear red caps in his honour, while the Mercedes team painted their halo device red with the words “Niki we miss you” instead of their customary silver design.

Source: CTV News

Many prominent Formula One figures (including Gerhard Berger, Jackie Stewart, Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet, Jean Alesi, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, David Coulthard, Nico Rosberg, and Valtteri Bottas) attended his funeral at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, as did Arnold Schwarzenegger and many Austrian politicians, including Alexander Van der Bellen.

The small shark fin piece of the engine cover (the top) of the Haas VF-19 was painted red with Lauda’s name and birth and death dates. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel both wore commemorative helmets.

Lauda is largely regarded as one of the best Formula One drivers of all time.

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