The Austrian champion, triple world champion, dies at age 70 while trying to recover from a lung transplant.
Formula 1 has lost on Monday one of its most charismatic figures ever and one of its greatest fighters in every way. Niki Lauda (Vienna, 1949), three times champion of the world in 1975 and 1977 (Ferrari) and 1984 (McLaren), has died in an Austrian hospital as a result of the complications derived from the different interventions to which he had recently been subjected. In August, he underwent a lung transplant that forced him to be hospitalized for two months. His delicate state of health worsened as a consequence of an influenza contracted at the beginning of this 2019. According to information from several Austrian media, the exorcist was also undergoing dialysis.
Niki Lauda – Nurburgring crash
The root of the respiratory problems that accompanied him and that finally ended his life is precisely what made him a legend. Lauda made his debut in the World Championship in 1971 with March, won his first grand prize in 1974 (Spain) and as a Ferrari driver before being crowned with the scuderia the following year (1975).
Rush, the film directed by Ron Howard, collects all the details of the battle he had with James Hunt for the 1976 crown, which ended up favoring the Briton after Vienna suffered the most terrible accident of his life. The Ferrari 312T with which it disputed the Great Prize of Germany in Nürburgring burned after stamping against the wall and he was trapped inside him completely exposed. The pilot was taken to the hospital with third-degree burns on most of his body, and despite that he only missed two races before returning to run six weeks later.
His arrival in Brabham in 1978 preceded his first withdrawal in 1979 – during the Grand Prix of Canada – when he had already diversified his business – he founded a charter company – before returning in 1982 with McLaren. With the British structure achieved its third twist, in 1984 and after beating his teammate, Alain Prost, by only half a point. His final goodbye to the discipline that made him a myth came in 1975, a season in which he only achieved a triumph (Holland) and which was the first turn of The Professor.
Once hung the monkey, Lauda assumed a role as adviser of Ferrari in the decade of the Nineties, followed by its entrance like director of Jaguar in 2001, a position in which it only remained an exercise. In 2012 he signed as non-executive president of Mercedes, a great dominator of the hybrid era in F1 with five consecutive doublets starting in 2014. His entry into the scene was capital in the incorporation of Lewis Hamilton (2013), whom he managed to convince. that the best professional option for their future was to leave McLaren and join the brand of the star, a wise decision 100% if we attend to the drifts that have followed since then and another team.
Until the complications of last year, Lauda was one of the usual faces of the paddock, always with his sweater and red cap. His penetrating gaze was almost more impotent than the marks that fire left on his face. The determination that led him to triumph with a steering wheel in his hands also emerged in a conversation with him, a circumstance that put him in some trouble. One of those who touch more closely who writes these lines took place after the Grand Prix of Germany in 2014, when he had no qualms about defining the Ferrari with which Fernando Alonso competed as “a shitty car”.
A phone call from Niki Lauda himself preceded a meeting with this journalist at the next appointment on the calendar (Hungary), and a second article in which, somehow, he wanted to apologize to the manufacturer of Il Cavallino Rampante for the language used. The hug in Hungaroring with the then director of the red cars reduced the tensions and staged the usual modus operandi that reigns in F1, that political path that Lauda dominated so much.