The incomparable Mr. Lauda
Since its debut in August 1971, the world of Formula 1 has known the name Niki Lauda. Austria’s second world champion after Jochen Rindt has become an icon in the 48 years since then. Only very few have left such deep traces. Threatened by health worries, Lauda celebrates his 70th birthday this Friday.
When Herbert Völker’s phenomenally exciting book “Das dritte Leben” appeared in 1998, Andreas Nikolaus Lauda was looking forward to his 50th birthday. Already to celebrate that has something miraculous, because his life is already with 27 years as good as lived, when he sits 1976 on the north loop of the Nürburgring unconsciously and imprisoned in the remainders of its burning Ferrari 312T2.
What happens afterwards is a story that even today can be told by those who were not even born then. So the time lapse: Two following competitors pull him out of the wreck, the doctors actually give him up, a priest donates him the last rites with motor oil, six weeks later Lauda, who is strongly disfigured in his face, drives again in Formula 1, at the end of October he gives up the most thrilling World Championship duel in Formula 1 history against the Englishman James Hunt in the rain of Fuji.
Lauda is nobody who gives up
In retrospect, this is even more incomprehensible today than it was in the life-threatening spray of the Japan Grand Prix. Because Lauda is nobody who gives up. He defies his strict grandfather as he wants to ban his racing career. He gets on Enzo Ferrari’s nerves for an endless amount of time until he is ready to pay the salary Lauda considers appropriate. Only one year after the horror of the Nürburgring he becomes world champion for the second time. In 1979 he is fed up with driving in circles and founds an airline out of nothing.
Lauda fights with all her energy against the giant Boeing – and wins the race.
Soon that alone is no longer enough for him, so he returns to Formula 1 and becomes world champion again in 1984. In 1991, 223 people were killed in a plane crash over Thailand. Lauda fights with all energy against the giant Boeing, until it is certain that a fundamental construction error caused the crash of the 767-300ER. All machines of this type must then be retrofitted. And no one will ever know how many lives Lauda saved with this persistence.
Whether in a racing car or in an airplane – Niki Lauda feels most comfortable in the cockpit. Even today, he can’t get off the track, but advises and comments on the sidelines of the races. He has been chairman of the supervisory board of the Mercedes racing team since 2012. And he celebrated title after title. The career of the birthday boy accompanied by health worries in pictures.© imago/ picture alliance
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A vocabulary that does not exist in Lauda’s vocabulary remains abandoned. As a Ferrari consultant, he never stops drilling before the upcoming superstar Michael Schumacher signs a contract with the Italians, who were operating on the verge of ridicule at the time. Five driver and six constructor titles are the long-term result, even though she no longer sees Lauda as an active Ferrari advisor.
Successful Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Mercedes Formula 1 Team
His activity as race director and later team boss of the Jaguar racing team turned into a failure. Since 2012 he has been all the more successful as Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Mercedes Formula 1 team. This makes Lauda himself a kind of record world champion: In addition to his own three titles, he has also won five drivers’ and five constructors’ crowns in each of the years since 2014. At the same time, he has been the nation’s RTL expert on Formula 1 for 22 years. If it has to be according to the tried and tested Beckenbauer principle, according to which yesterday’s gossip does not have to be too much of a churl.
Late effects on kidneys and lungs
Anyone who competes in Formula 1 races in the 70s must not be afraid of death. Year after year, Lauda and his rivals bury their fellow drivers in an accident. But Lauda’s salvation since 1 August 1976 also remains the sword of Damocles, which never stops hovering over his head. The toxic gases that Lauda’s lungs absorbed in the conflagration at the mine section never completely leave his body again. They gradually destroy two kidneys, one donated by his brother Florian in 1997 and one by his then partner and present wife Birgit in 2005.
Also the lung does not withstand the incessant inner poison attack. It must be replaced by a donor organ in the summer of 2018. Since then Lauda has once again been fighting for his health – oh what, for his life. He has barely left the clinic after more than two months when two pneumonia catch up with him in winter. Every contagion