Andreas Nikolaus „Niki” Lauda (born 22 February 1949) is an Austrian former Formula One driver who was three times F1 World Champion, winning in 1975, 1977 and 1984. He is currently the only driver to have been champion for both Ferrari and McLaren, the sport’s two most successful constructors. More recently an aviation entrepreneur, he has founded and run two airlines (Lauda Air and Niki). He was also a consultant for Scuderia Ferrari and team manager of the Jaguar Formula One racing team for two years. He is currently working as a pundit for German TV during Grand Prix weekends and acts as non-executive chairman of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team.
His family had always disapproved of his interest in race cars and despite being born into a wealthy family, Lauda went out on his own, securing two bank loans and working through a declining BRM team to cement his entry into Formula One Racing history. In 1971, he joined the March Team of the Formula 2 and within a year was driving for F1 as well. Lauda enjoyed his first GP victory at the Argentine Grand Prix. A slow start to the 1975 season emphasised his following successes racing the Ferrari 312T, where he won his first World Championship at the United States GP. Lauda also dominated the 1976 season enjoying four more wins whilst collecting a number of historical records held by the likes of Jim Clark and Jack Brabham.
In 1976, safety issues regarding the German Grand Prix track at the Nurburgring saw Lauda on a very fast left kink. He swerved before hitting the embankment and rolling into Brett Lunger’s car. Niki’s car burst into flames and he suffered extensive burns to his head, but remarkably returned to racing only 6 weeks later. James Hunt, Lauda’s rival of the season, was 3 points behind before the final race of the season. On lap 2 Lauda made an infamous decision to withdraw from the race due to torrential rain. Hunt suffered a puncture which dropped his position to third. By the end Hunt only managed to beat Lauda by one point. The decision to withdraw cost Niki his championship as well as all other Ferrari drivers. However, many believe his decision was courageous and supported his choice.
In 1978, Lauda made a return to Formula One Racing joining the Brabham team owned by Bernie Ecclestone. This was short lived as Lauda quickly returned to Austria to develop his charter airline business. However, Niki once more returned to racing in 1982 joining Mclaren and won the Long Beach Grand Prix to announce his comeback in style. A drivers’ strike was also initiated during this time to reject the call for drivers to obtain Super-Licenses and commit to their teams – the drivers won. In 1984, Lauda won his third world championship. His win at the Austrian Grand Prix was the only time an Austrian had won his home Grand Prix.
Lauda returned to running his airline, Lauda Air, on his second Formula One retirement in 1985. During his time as airline manager, he was appointed consultant at Ferrari as part of an effort by Montezemolo to rejuvenate the team. After selling his Lauda Air shares to majority partner Austrian Airlines in 1999, he managed the Jaguar Formula One racing team from 2001 to 2002. In late 2003, he started a new airline, Niki. Lauda holds a commercial pilot’s licence and from time to time acted as a captain on the flights of his airline. Lauda Air ceased operations in July 2013.
– Austrian Sportsman of the Year in 1977
– Autosport International Racing Driver Award in 1984
– BRDC International Trophy winner 1975
– Formula One World Champion 1975
– Formula One World Champion 1977
– Procar BMW M1 Champion 1979
– Formula One World Champion 1984
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