On August 1, 1976, at the German Grand Prix at Nurburgring, Laudas Ferrari burst into flames after colliding with another car. He was trapped inside the burning wreckage for almost a minute, suffering severe burns to his face, head, and lungs. He was given the last rites by a priest at the hospital, but he refused to give up. He underwent several painful surgeries and skin grafts, and lost most of his right ear and eyelids.
The Life and Legacy of Niki Lauda: From Hell and Back
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Remarkably, just six weeks after the accident, Lauda returned to racing at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. He wore a specially designed helmet to protect his wounds, which still bled during the race. He finished fourth, earning valuable points for the championship. He later said that his biggest challenge was overcoming his fear of driving again.
Lauda went on to compete for the title with his rival James Hunt, who had won the German Grand Prix in his absence. The two drivers had a fierce but respectful rivalry, which was dramatized in the 2013 movie Rush. The championship came down to the final race in Japan, where Lauda decided to withdraw due to the dangerous weather conditions. Hunt finished third and won the title by one point.
Lauda did not let this setback stop him. He won his second world championship in 1977 with Ferrari, and then retired from racing in 1979. He founded his own airline, Lauda Air, and became a successful entrepreneur and businessman. He also worked as a commentator and consultant for various Formula One teams. He made a comeback as a driver in 1982 with McLaren, and won his third and final world championship in 1984.
Lauda died on May 20, 2019, at the age of 70, after suffering from kidney problems. He left behind a legacy of bravery, determination, and excellence that inspired generations of racers and fans. His autobiography, To Hell and Back, is a candid and compelling account of his life and career, as well as his remarkable recovery from the crash that almost killed him.
Lauda was born in Vienna, Austria, on February 22, 1949. He came from a wealthy family of industrialists, but he had no interest in following their footsteps. He was passionate about cars and racing from an early age, and he defied his parents wishes by pursuing his dream. He borrowed money to buy his first racing car, a Mini Cooper, and started competing in local events. He soon moved up to Formula Three and Formula Two, and impressed the teams with his speed and skill.
He made his Formula One debut in 1971 with March, but he struggled to make an impact. He switched to BRM in 1973, where he met his future teammate and friend Clay Regazzoni. He also impressed Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the legendary Ferrari team, who offered him a contract for 1974. Lauda accepted the offer and joined Ferrari, where he found his true home.
Lauda quickly established himself as one of the top drivers in Formula One. He won his first Grand Prix in Spain in 1974, and finished fourth in the championship. He dominated the 1975 season, winning five races and securing his first world title with two races to spare. He was also popular with the fans and the media, who admired his honesty and intelligence. He was nicknamed The Computer for his analytical approach to racing. 04f6b60f66