Niki Lauda: tribute and reflection

Remembering Niki Lauda

By: Jake Rajala

The mythical Formula 1 figure Niki Lauda left many unique, positive impressions in his life. In this piece, I’m going to simply reminisce about the wild success, tragedies, and impact he had on the F1 world.

Lauda was born in 1949 (the same year as the NATO treaty) in Vienna, Austria. Similar to other F1 legends, Lauda decided to race against his parents wishes. He boldly took out a 30,000-dollar loan so he could begin racing in Formula Two. The bad-ass persona was quickly promoted to race with the rockstars in Formula 1. He dabbled in F1 and F2 in 1972 and then joined Ferrari in 1974.

The risk-taking driver persisted through the cracks as an alpha F1 driver in 1975 – as he won his first world championship. It was clear that he was special at that point. Although, there was one obstacle in his way: James Hunt. It was entertaining and mouth-watering to follow the two legends compete until the final lap – just as Lightning McQueen and Chick Hicks went toe to toe. Nonetheless, it should be noted that the two legendary F1 drivers were “very good friends” — according to Hunt’s son.

Lauda was clearly an entertaining sports figure, but he was still human. He shockingly and sadly suffered a brutal accident in 1976 – as he lost control and sat inside a car that wound up in flames. It was nothing short of a miracle that he survived the incident. Yet, it was clear that the infamous wreck left a burn on his face. The F1 driver that came from humble beginnings didn’t look back – as he would win his second championship in 1977 and his third/final championship in 1984.

Lauda passed away at the age of 70 in May of 2019 (eight months after a lung transplant). His F1 brother, Hunt, died at the age of 45 from a heart attack. The very famous F1 movie called Rush (which received an 89% Rotten Tomatoes score) tells a tale about the rivalry and paths of the two drivers.

It’s clear that Lauda was talented, but also one of the most relatable and inspiring sports figures of all time.

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