In honor of the excellent new film “Rush,” here is the great Niki Lauda during practice for the 1976 German Grand Prix on the Nürburgring in which he suffered the terrible accident which almost ended his career and his life. This photograph may have been taken before the ditched curve at Schwalbenschwanz. Lauda was driving a Ferrari 312T2 formula one car and would qualify second to James Hunt’s McLaren M23.
Lauda, whose bravery could not be questioned, would advise against starting the race, due to heavy rain and the length of the circuit which would indeed make rescue difficult in the event of an accident. The drivers voted to race anyway. It was unfortunate that Lauda would become the example to prove his warning had been so correct.
Lauda, having made an astonishing recovery, withdrew from the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji later in the season, again because of rain, and thereby allowed Hunt to win the 1976 Championship. Nevertheless, Lauda would return to claim the title in 1977 and, after a period of retirement, to show he still had what the sport demanded by winning it again in 1984.
The film portrait of Lauda in “Rush” reflects his character and mannerisms with unusual fidelity.
Today, Niki Lauda acts as a special advisor to the Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 team.
Photo by Yves Debraine ©The Klemantaski Collection