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Top facts about Niki Lauda, King Rat

Thu 05 May 2022 | 13:30

Niki Lauda was a three-time world champion who enjoyed a remarkable career that included 25 victories from 171 world championship F1 starts. Read on to find out more facts about Niki Lauda, Austrian Formula 1 legend.

Andreas Nikolaus "Niki" Lauda was an Austrian Formula One driver and aviation entrepreneur who lived from February 22, 1949, until May 20, 2019.

Niki Lauda’s age

was 70 years at the time of his death.

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

He worked as a Grand Prix analyst for German television and served as non-executive chairman of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, of which Lauda controlled 10%.

Lauda was seriously injured in a crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, during which his Ferrari 312T2 burst into flames and he came close to death after inhaling hot toxic fumes and suffering severe burns.

He had emerged as Formula One's star driver amid a 1975 title win and was leading the 1976 championship battle.

He made it through the ordeal and returned to racing only six weeks later at the Italian Grand Prix. Despite losing the championship that year to James Hunt by one point, he went on to win his second championship the following year, during his last season with Ferrari.

After a few years at Brabham and a two-year break, Lauda returned to compete for McLaren from 1982 through 1985, winning the 1984 championship by half a point over teammate Alain Prost.

Top facts about Niki Lauda:

An important fact about Niki Lauda is that he started and operated three airlines as an aviation entrepreneur: Lauda Air, Niki, and Lauda. For two years, he worked as a consultant for Scuderia Ferrari and as the team manager of the Jaguar Formula One racing team.

Niki Lauda early life

Niki Lauda was born in Vienna, Austria, on February 22, 1949, to a rich paper manufacturing family. Regarding

Niki Lauda’s childhood

, it should be mentioned that Hans Lauda, a Viennese-born entrepreneur, was his paternal grandpa. Despite his family's opposition, Lauda became a race driver.

After beginning with a Mini, Lauda progressed to Formula Vee, as was customary in Central Europe, but quickly advanced to private Porsche and Chevron sports cars. There is no information available regarding

Niki Lauda’s parents

.

Niki Lauda personal life

With his first wife, Chilean-Austrian Marlene Knaus (married 1976, divorced 1991), Lauda had two sons: Mathias, a racing driver, and Lukas, who was Mathias' manager.

He married Birgit Wetzinger, a flight attendant for his company, in 2008. When the kidney Lauda got from his brother in 1997 failed, she gave one to him in 2005. Birgit gave birth to twins in September 2009.

Lauda had a lung transplant in his home Austria on August 2, 2018, and the procedure was a success. Lauda was a multilingual Austrian who spoke excellent German, English, and Italian.

Lauda was raised in a Roman Catholic household. He told Zeit that he left the church for a period to avoid paying church taxes, but that he returned once his two children were baptized.

Niki Lauda professional career

During his remarkable career, Niki Lauda was called both a hero and a villain. The battle-scarred champion who defied both the odds and convention remained a sporting legend forever.

Niki Lauda Formula career

With his career on hold, he took out a £30,000 bank loan guaranteed by a life insurance policy to join the young March Formula Two (F2) team in 1971.

An important

fact about Niki Lauda

is that he had an on-going disagreement with his family over his racing goals due to their disapproval, and he stopped communicating with them.

Lauda was swiftly promoted to the Formula One team, although in 1972 he drove for March in both F1 and F2. Despite the outstanding F2 cars (and Lauda's driving talents impressing March chief Robin Herd), March's F1 season in 1972 was a disaster.

The Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport Park, when both March vehicles were disqualified within three laps of each other, barely passed 3/4 of the race distance, was perhaps the lowest moment of the team's season. In 1973, Lauda took out yet another bank loan to join the BRM squad.

Although Lauda was fast off the line, the team was in decline; the BRM P160E was quick and simple to drive, but it was unreliable, and the engine lacked power. After finishing third in the Monaco Grand Prix that year, Lauda's popularity was rising, and Enzo Ferrari got intrigued.

Enzo Ferrari asked his BRM teammate Clay Regazzoni what he thought of Lauda when he left to rejoin Ferrari in 1974. Regazzoni praised Lauda so well that Ferrari quickly signed him and paid him enough to wipe off his obligations.

Ferrari

Ferrari recovered entirely under Luca di Montezemolo after a dismal start to the 1970s, culminating in a terrible start to the 1973 season, and were resurgent in 1974.

The management's trust in the little-known Lauda was promptly rewarded with a second-place result in his first race for the team, the Argentine Grand Prix, which kicked off the season.

Only three races later, at the Spanish Grand Prix, he won his maiden Grand Prix (GP) and the first for Ferrari since 1972. Despite setting the pace for the season with six straight pole positions, Lauda only won one more race that year, the Dutch GP, due to a combination of inexperience and technical unreliability.

An important fact about Niki Lauda is that he finished fourth in the Drivers' Championship after putting in a lot of time and effort into testing and upgrading the vehicle.

Lauda's 1975 Formula One season got off to a sluggish start, with just a fifth-place result in the first four races before winning four of the following five in the new Ferrari 312T.

With a third-place result in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Lauda's first World Championship was assured; teammate Regazzoni won the race, and Ferrari won their first Constructors' Championship in 11 years.

Lauda subsequently won his fifth race of the year, the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. He was also the first driver to lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife in less than seven minutes, which was a tremendous accomplishment considering the Nordschleife part of the Nürburgring was two miles longer than it is now.

Lauda did not win the German Grand Prix from pole position that year; after battling for the lead with Patrick Depailler for the first half of the race, Lauda led for the first 9 laps before being passed by Carlos Reutemann, James Hunt, Tom Pryce, and Jacques Laffite at the Wippermann, 9 miles into the 10th lap; Lauda made it back to the pits with a damaged front wing and a destroyed left front tyre.

After Hunt withdrew and Pryce had to slow down due to a fuel leak, Lauda made it to the podium in third place, behind Reutemann and Laffite. Lauda was notorious for giving away any trophies he won in return for his vehicle being cleaned and maintained at his neighborhood garage.

Unlike 1975, Lauda dominated the start of the 1976 Formula One season, winning four of the first six races and finishing second in the other two, despite difficulties between him and Montezemolo's replacement, Daniele Audetto.

An important fact about Niki Lauda is that he had more than doubled the points of his nearest opponents Jody Scheckter and James Hunt by the time he won his fifth race of the year at the British GP, and a second straight World Championship looked a foregone conclusion.

It was the first time a feat like this had been accomplished since Jack Brabham's triumphs in 1959 and 1960. He also seemed to be on track to break Jim Clark's record of winning the most races in a season, which he had held since 1963.

Despite being the fastest driver on the Nürburgring at the time, Lauda urged his fellow drivers to boycott the race a week before the race, citing the organisers' lack of resources to properly manage such a large circuit, including a lack of fire marshals, fire and safety equipment, and safety vehicles.

The race went on despite a majority of the drivers voting against the boycott (three of the drivers that day eventually perished in Formula One incidents: Tom Pryce in 1977, Ronnie Peterson in 1978, and Patrick Depailler in 1980).

Lauda was involved in an accident on August 1, 1976, on the second lap at the extremely fast left hairpin before Bergwerk, when his Ferrari went off the track, struck an embankment, burst into flames, and collided with Brett Lunger's Surtees-Ford vehicle.

Lauda, unlike Lunger, was caught in the rubble. Drivers Arturo Merzario, Lunger, Guy Edwards, and Harald Ertl arrived on the scene shortly after, but Merzario sustained serious burns to his head and breathed hot poisonous vapours that injured his lungs and blood before he was able to extract Lauda from his vehicle.

Because Lauda was wearing a modified helmet, it didn't fit him correctly after the collision; the foam had compressed and it fell off his head, exposing his face to the flames.

Lauda was awake and able to stand immediately after the collision, but he eventually fell into a coma. He was given the last rites while in the hospital, but he lived.

The burns to his head left Lauda with considerable scarring, including the loss of most of his right ear, as well as the hair on the right side of his head, his eyebrows, and his eyelids.

He decided to restrict his reconstructive surgery to replacing and repairing his eyelids. He usually wore a hat after the accident to hide the wounds on his head. He arranged for sponsors to advertise on the hat.

With Lauda out of the race, Carlos Reutemann was drafted in to fill the void. Ferrari skipped the Austrian Grand Prix in protest of McLaren driver James Hunt receiving preferential treatment at the Spanish and British Grands Prix.

An important

fact about Niki Lauda

is that he only missed two races following the tragedy, appearing at a news conference at Monza six weeks later with his fresh wounds still bandaged.

Despite admitting to being terrified, he finished fourth in the Italian Grand Prix. Nigel Roebuck, a Formula One writer, remembers witnessing Lauda in the pits, removing the blood-soaked bandages from his wounded scalp.

To avoid becoming too uncomfortable, he had to wear a specially designed crash helmet. Hunt had staged a late assault to cut Lauda's lead in the World Championship standings in Lauda's absence. Away from the track, Hunt and Lauda were friends, and their personal on-track competition, although fierce, was cleanly waged and fair.

Hunt was just three points behind Lauda heading into the last race of the season, the Japanese Grand Prix, after victories in the Canadian and United States Grands Prix.

Lauda qualified third, one spot behind Hunt, however due to excessive rain on race day, Lauda was forced to withdraw after two laps.

He subsequently said that he believed it was risky to continue under these circumstances, particularly since his eyes were watering excessively due to his fire-damaged tear ducts and inability to blink.

Hunt led for the most of the race when his tyres blistered and he had to pit. He rebounded to third place and won the championship by a single point.

Lauda's previously positive relationship with Ferrari was seriously harmed by his decision to retire from the Japanese Grand Prix, and he had a tough 1977 season, although winning the championship by virtue of consistency rather than absolute speed.

Lauda despised Reutemann, his new partner who had taken over as his substitute driver. This action did not sit well with Lauda, who believed he had been betrayed by Ferrari. "We could never tolerate one other, and instead of relieving my stress, they added to it by adding Carlos Reutemann into the squad."

Lauda had stated his intention to leave Ferrari at the conclusion of the season, but he departed sooner after winning the Drivers' Championship at the US Grand Prix due to the team's decision to race the unknown Gilles Villeneuve in a third car at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Brabham

A notable fact about Niki Lauda is that he joined Parmalat-sponsored Brabham-Alfa Romeo in 1978 for a $1 million salary, but had two unsuccessful seasons, remembered primarily for his one race in the Brabham BT46B, a radical design known as the Fan Car, which won its first and only race at the Swedish GP, but Brabham did not use the car again in F1.

Because the opposed cylinder banks interfered with the venturi tunnels of the Alfa flat-12 engine, Alfa created a V12 for 1979. Since 1973, it was the fourth 12-cylinder engine configuration to drive the Austrian in Formula One.

Despite winning the non-championship 1979 Dino Ferrari Grand Prix with the Brabham-Alfa, Lauda's 1979 F1 season was hampered by retirements and low performance.

When not racing for the British Formula Two team Project Four Racing (headed by Ron Dennis) in the single-make BMW M1 Procar Championship, Lauda won three races for P4 as well as the series. Decades later, before the 2008 German Grand Prix, Lauda won a BMW Procar demonstration race.

A notable

fact about Niki Lauda

is that he finished 4th at Monza and won the non-WC Imola race in September, still using the Alfa V12 engine. Following that, Brabham reverted to the Cosworth V8.

Late in September, during practise for the 1979 Canadian Grand Prix, Lauda abruptly ended a session and told team president Ecclestone that he planned to retire immediately because he could no longer "continue the folly of going around in circles." Lauda, who had formed Lauda Air, a charter airline in the meantime, returned to Austria to operate the business full-time.

McLaren

Lauda returned to racing in 1982 for a record-breaking $3 million compensation. The main challenge was persuading then-team sponsor Marlboro that he was still capable of winning after a good test with McLaren. Lauda demonstrated it when he won the Long Beach Grand Prix in his third race back.

Lauda was the organiser of the so-called "drivers' strike" before the season's first race at Kyalami race track in South Africa; Lauda had noticed that the new Super Licence required drivers to commit themselves to their current teams and realised that this could hinder a driver's negotiating position.

With the exception of Teo Fabi, the drivers holed themselves in a banqueting room at the Sunnyside Park Hotel until they were victorious.

The 1983 season was a transitional year for the McLaren team, as they switched from Ford-Cosworth engines to TAG-badged Porsche turbo engines, and Lauda did not win a race that year, finishing second behind colleague John Watson in Long Beach.

Lauda's political manoeuvring drove a furious head designer John Barnard to construct an interim vehicle earlier than planned in order to provide the TAG-Porsche engine some much-needed racing testing; Lauda came close to winning the season's last race in South Africa.

Due to just half points being granted for the shorter 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, Lauda won his third world title by half a point against teammate Alain Prost in 1984.

His triumph in the Austrian Grand Prix that year remains the first occasion an Austrian has won in his native country.

Initially, Lauda did not want Prost to join his squad since he was a much faster competitor. However, they had a nice connection throughout their two seasons together, and Lauda subsequently said that defeating the skilled Frenchman was a significant incentive for him.

Lauda and Prost continued to dominate the season, winning 12 of the 16 races. Prost won seven races, while Lauda won five. However, Lauda seldom equaled his partner in qualifying, despite setting a record for the most pole positions in a season in 1975.

Despite this, Lauda won the championship in Portugal, despite having to start eleventh on the grid, while Prost qualified first.

Prost gave it his all, starting second and won his seventh race of the season, but Lauda's calculated drive (which included recording the best race lap) saw him finish second behind his teammate, earning him enough points to win his third championship.

His second placing was fortunate, since Nigel Mansell had been in second for the whole of the race. However, since it was Mansell's last race with Lotus before joining Williams in 1985, Lotus chairman Peter Warr refused to give him the brakes he requested, and the Englishman withdrew on lap 52 due to brake failure.

Only a few circuits earlier, Lauda had overtaken the Toleman of F1 rookie Ayrton Senna for third position, and Mansell's retirement moved him up to second behind Prost.

Lauda's 1985 season was a disappointment, as he retired from eleven of the fourteen races he entered. After falling and injuring his wrist during practise, he did not start the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, and he also missed the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch; John Watson took his place.

He finished fourth in the San Marino Grand Prix, fifth in the German Grand Prix, and won a single race in the Dutch Grand Prix, holding off a late-race charging Prost. This was his last Grand Prix win, as he withdrew for real at the conclusion of the 1985 season after declaring his intended retirement during the Austrian Grand Prix.

The first Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide, South Australia, was Lauda's last Formula One Grand Prix. After qualifying 16th, he took the lead on lap 53 after a consistent drive.

On the city circuit, however, the McLaren's ceramic brakes failed, and he was forced to retire from the lead at the end of the lengthy Brabham Straight on lap 57.

Only two drivers in the race had competed in the non-championship 1984 Australian Grand Prix, the other being 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg, who won in Adelaide in 1985 and replaced Lauda at McLaren in 1986.

Niki Lauda helmet

Lauda's first helmet was a basic red with his complete name inscribed on both sides and the Raiffeisen Bank insignia on the chin. In the weeks after his Nürburgring accident, he wore a customised AGV helmet so that the liner would not irritate his burnt scalp too much.

When he returned to McLaren in 1982, his helmet was white, with the red "L" emblem of Lauda Air on both sides instead of his name, and branding from his personal sponsor Parmalat on the top. The red and white were inverted from 1983 to 1985 to conjure recollections of his prior helmet design.

Niki Lauda managerial career

When Luca di Montezemolo offered him a consultancy post at Ferrari in 1993, Lauda returned to Formula One as a manager. Lauda took over as team principal of the Jaguar Formula One team halfway through the 2001 season.

However, the team did not improve, and Lauda, along with 70 other important people, was laid go at the end of 2002. He was named non-executive chairman of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team in September 2012.

In 2013, he was involved in the discussions to sign Lewis Hamilton to a three-year contract with Mercedes.

Niki Lauda outside F1

After his second Formula One retirement in 1985, Lauda returned to operate his airline, Lauda Air. During his stint as an airline management, he was hired as a Ferrari consultant as part of Montezemolo's attempt to revitalise the squad.

A notable fact about Niki Lauda is that he ran the Jaguar Formula One racing team from 2001 to 2002 after surrendering his Lauda Air holdings to majority partner Austrian Airlines in 1999. He founded Niki, a new airline, in late 2003. In 2011, Niki, like Lauda Air, amalgamated with its key partner Air Berlin.

Lauda acquired chartered airline Amira Air in early 2016 and rebranded it LaudaMotion. Following a failed offer by Lufthansa and IAG, LaudaMotion acquired the Niki brand and asset as a consequence of Air Berlin's bankruptcy in 2017. Lauda had a commercial pilot's licence and sometimes served as a captain on his airline's flights.

A notable fact about Niki Lauda is that he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1993 and began commentating on Grands Prix for RTL television in Austria and Germany in 1996. He was chastised, though, for calling Robert Kubica a "polack" (a racial term for Poles) on television at the Monaco Grand Prix in May 2010.

Because of his large buck teeth, Lauda is frequently referred to as "the Rat," "SuperRat," or "King Rat." He had ties to both Parmalat and Viessmann, with the latter sponsoring the ever-present headgear he wore from 1976 to disguise the horrific burns he had in his Nürburgring accident.

In a 2009 interview with the German daily Die Zeit, Lauda revealed that an advertiser had paid €1.2 million for space on his red headgear. In 2005, the Austrian post office produced a commemorative stamp in his honour.

In 2008, the American sports television network ESPN placed him 22nd on their list of the "greatest drivers of all time."

Niki Lauda published five books: The Art and Science of Grand Prix Driving (1975); My Years With Ferrari (1978); The New Formula One: A Turbo Age (1984); Meine Story (titled To Hell and Back in certain countries) (1986); Das dritte Leben (1996). The volumes were edited by Austrian journalist Herbert Volker, according to Lauda.

The 1976 Formula One race between Niki Lauda and James Hunt was portrayed by Daniel Brühl in the film Rush (2013), for which he was nominated for a BAFTA Film Award for Best Supporting Actor. At the conclusion of the film, Lauda makes a cameo appearance.

"When I learned he'd died at 45 of a heart attack, I wasn't shocked, I was simply sorry," Lauda remarked of Hunt's death. Hunt was also one of the few people he loved, one of the few people he respected, and the one person he had envied, according to him.

In a Mayday episode titled "Niki Lauda: Testing the Limits" about the events of Lauda Air Flight 004, Lauda said that operating an airline is more challenging than winning three Formula One titles.

Niki Lauda legacy

Following a period of bad health, 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 renal difficulties. He died quietly, surrounded by family members, according to a statement released on his behalf.

On social media and at the Wednesday news conference session before the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix, a number of current and past drivers and teams paid homage.

Before the race, there was a minute of silence. Fans and drivers were urged to wear red hats in his honour during the weekend, while the Mercedes team painted its halo device red with a sticker reading "Niki we miss you" instead of their regular silver scheme.

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), Arnold Schwarzenegger, and many Austrian politicians, including Alexander Van der Bellen, attended his funeral at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna.

The top of the Haas VF-19's engine cover (the little shark fin piece) was painted crimson with Lauda's name and birth and death years. In honour of the victims, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel donned unique helmets. Lauda is largely regarded as one of the best Formula One drivers of all time.

Niki Lauda social media

Regarding

Niki Lauda social media

, it should be mentioned that he did not have any pages on any social media platforms.

Niki Lauda body measurements

Speaking about

Niki Lauda body measurements

, it should be mentioned that the former driver was 171cm and 65kg.

Niki Lauda net worth and salary

Niki Lauda's net worth

was estimated to be $200 million at the time of his death, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.

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