He was probably the first of what one might call an “engineer driver” as he immersed himself in the testing and
development of the cars, which reaped rewards during the 1975 season, resulting in five Grand Prix wins
on his way to becoming Drivers’ World Champion. The 1976 season started really well for him, winning
four of the first six races and finishing 2nd in the other two. However, as is well known he then suffered terrible
fiery accident in the German Grand Prix where he almost lost his life through smoke inhalation of toxic fumes,
even being given the last rights. Miraculously he survived, and despite his facial burns being heavily bandaged,
he was back racing again 6 weeks later in the Italian Grand Prix where he finished 4th despite being in severe
discomfort from his still healing burns. He only lost the championship to James Hunt in the last race of the
season, the Japanese Grand Prix, held in torrential rain, retiring as he deemed it too dangerous to continue.
The story of this Lauda-Hunt duel that season was made into a film “Rush” in 2013. It is said that the decision
to retire in Japan soured his relationship with Enzo Ferrari, but he still drove for Ferrari for the 1977, and
won his second World Drivers’ Championship. He then drove for the Brabham team for two years before
announcing his retirement just before the end of 1979 season. He returned to F1 with the McLaren team
between 1982 and 1985, winning his third Drivers’ World Championship with them in 1984, and then retiring
completely after the 1985 season.
Apart from his undoubted skills at the wheel of a racing car he was also a successful businessman, operating
three airlines over the years, he was Jaguar F1 team manager, acted as a consultant to the Ferrari F1 team
for a lengthy period, and was a non-executive director of the Mercedes F1 team at the time of his passing. He
was also a F1 race commentator for both Austrian and German television, and known for his “no holds barred”
opinions. Despite having had two kidney transplants and more recently a lung transplant, he survived, but
finally succumbed at the University Hospital in Zurich, while undergoing dialysis treatment for the recurring
kidney problems. The world of motor sport is a poorer place with his passing, but his determination, courage
in adversity and driving ability will ensure that his memory will last for a long, long time, may he rest in peace.