The one and only Niki Lauda is no more. That said, he will not be forgotten. Sounds cliched? Grow up. Like, really do, may help!
25 race wins, 3 world titles, 54 podiums, and above all- an impact that was and will be felt long after. There are drivers. There are race-winners. There are those who bag multiple championships, and then there’s Niki Lauda.
And guess what?
There will always be.
Few men asked as much from the sport as they gave back to it. Because Niki wasn’t interested in theatrics and the things he would have bought and splurged. He was the familiar figure inside the Mercedes paddock. He was the motivator of Lewis Hamilton. Guess what? He was also that guy who praised Nico when none did.
He was, in the absolute sense of the word, an integral figure of Formula 1 for the simple reason that he never put himself ahead of others, but walked beside them. Similarly, he never saw of himself as being bigger than the sport to whose safety measures he contributed, and as seen in 1976, by actually nearly dying. How many were willing to risk their lives for Nurburgring’s contest? Yet, it must also be asked, how many volunteered to put a sense to the others that racing in those situations was near suicide?
One reckons, we know the answer and the so-called purist who understands a tad bit about Formula 1 and its mortal dangers and the fact that immortality only comes when you risk everything, just everything under the sun would know where to place Niki.
Not only did Niki Lauda volunteer to race under what were then barely drivable conditions, he tried to tell the others to ‘grow up’; that there was absolutely no sense in persevering against that risk, not that the flamboyant James Hunt would’ve receded that day- would he?
But Niki back then on a nearly-fateful August afternoon, risked everything, including his own mortal life to rise to the occasion.
Did he not? And just what did he get in return? Let’s just respect the fact that life is more than the injuries you sport, the burns you carry, and the scars that may have scarred you for life. Just that no tribute to Niki Lauda can ever be rendered complete without saying that the Austrian may have been ‘scarred’ for life but he wasn’t scared.
Similarly, no tribute to Niki Lauda can ever be completed without stating that while he retired aged 36, having entered Formula 1 aged 22, his stay in the sport was more successful than the reasons Ferrari gives itself at missing out another race win and perhaps more arduous than walking barefoot on Spa-Francorchamps in snow.
Whether his maiden win at Spain or his final entry at Australia, Niki Lauda proved that pure racing is the only thing that matters.
All that said, here’s a tribute to Niki Lauda, a man behind 24 fastest laps as well as 24 pole positions:
Cheating death and yet, being friends with it in the end
Acing a corner, a hairpin bend,
He drove like a king yet never felt like it till the end,
He wasn’t in it for the ego hassles or the clashes,
Yet in forging one with Hunt, he proved to the Shunt,
That man can indeed be normal even after running around in circles finding normality,
That it often takes supreme will in the end, not writing of a real one to reach immortality.