McLaren ’50 in 50′: Niki Lauda

Following Emerson Fittipaldi‘s championship in 1974 and James Hunt‘s in 1976, Austrian driver Niki Lauda was the next man to win a championship while driving for McLaren.

Lauda entered Formula One in 1971 famously paying for a seat with the March F1 team. It was a difficult start to his F1 career and he had to talk his way into a drive with BRM after his time at March came to an end with no points and a rising debt. Following a year with them he made the move to Ferrari, taking his first race win – at the Spanish Grand Prix – and finishing the year in fourth place. He won the championship in 1975 and fought hard with Hunt for another title in 1976. It was that year he suffered his horrific accident at the German Grand Prix but it did not keep him down for long. He was back three races later and lost out ultimately due to adverse weather conditions at the Japanese Grand Prix when he pulled out. He won the championship again in 1977 but decided to leave Ferrari at the end of the year, skipping the last two races. After two years with Brabham Lauda chose to retire from Formula One, stating he was “tired of driving around in circles”. He started his own airline but returned to Formula One in need of finance and this is when he started driving for McLaren.

Lauda spent four seasons with McLaren, until his eventual (permanent) retirement from Formula One in 1985. During his time there he won eight races and took seven further podiums. In 1984 Lauda became a world champion for the third time, taking it by only half a point over team-mate Alain Prost.  After his accident at the German Grand Prix, after which it was thought he might succumb to his injuries, his return at the Italian Grand Prix that year was deemed heroic by many. The story of his rivalry with Hunt has been brought to the big screen by Ron Howard, in Rush, where Daniel Brühl plays Lauda. He also took to wearing, what has now become an iconic part of him, his red cap to hide his injuries. Following his retirement from Formula One, Lauda returned to his air line, became an adviser to Ferrari, and became the boss of Jaguar (not all at the same time!). He now acts as a pundit for German TV as well as being non-executive chairman of Mercedes.


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