Niki Lauda: The Crash That Made Him Famous
“You appreciate that it is very easy to die and you have to arrange your life to cope with that reality.” – Niki Lauda
Since the inception of Formula One, over 1,000 racers have taken part in the fastest motorsport on earth. To some extent, they are all legends because taking part in Formula One itself is a prodigious accomplishment. However, some racers are observed as Gods of Formula One because they have achieved some remarkable and unimaginable things on and off the track. Today’s piece is about the eminent Austrian racer Niki Lauda, whose deadly crash turned him into a legend of the Formula One universe.
The crash- The year was 1976, and Niki Lauda was the reigning Formula One world champion at that juncture. In 1975, Lauda won his first Formula One title and therefore, everybody expected him to perform extraordinarily well in 1976. His cadence was on point and he was flying efficiently in that season but the German Grand Prix changed the tale or should we say, it gave birth to a new legacy.
In the German Grand Prix, Niki Lauda met with a dreadful accident and his helmet was knocked off. There he was stuck in a colossal fireball without a helmet for over a minute, waiting for death. Fortunately, his rival drivers realized the gravity of the situation and freed him. The fire damaged Lauda’s ears, eyebrows, eyelids and lungs as he inhaled the toxic fume when he was stuck in the cockpit.
Officials rushed Lauda to the nearest hospital, where he slipped into a coma. Doctors did their best to pump out the gases, and they called a priest to read Lauda his last rites. His injuries were grievous and everybody around the world thought Lauda would not survive.
The comeback- Six weeks later surprising everybody, Niki Lauda entered the F1 track, got into his Ferrari and took part in the Italian Grand Prix. During those six weeks in the hospital, Lauda missed two races, but he was leading the championship by 31 points. Lauda’s fighting spirit was as lofty as Mount Everest and with soaking bandages and unhealed wounds, he came back to fight for the title.
That year, Lauda did not lose the championship because another racer beat him. In the last race of the season at the Japan Grand Prix, he voluntarily pulled out of the race because of a violent downpour. Therefore, he lost the title by one point to British racer Hunt and secured the second position. The following year in 1977, he regained his Formula One championship title.