Andreas Nikolaus Lauda (22 February 1949 – 20 May 2019) lovingly called Niki Lauda was an Austrian Formula One driver and till present the only champion driver of the two most popular and prosperous sports constructors - the ‘McLaren’ and the ‘Ferrari’.
Nicknamed ‘the rat’, later the ‘SuperRat’ and finally the ‘King Rat’, Niki was a three time ‘F1 World Champion’ and is considered by some as one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time.
He won 25 Grands Prix for Ferrari, Brabham and McLaren during his glittering career. It started with 1974 Spanish Grand Prix and continued with wins in Netherlands, Monaco, Belgium, Sweden, France, United States (1975), Brazil, South Africa, Belgium, Monaco, Britain (1976), South Africa, Germany, Netherlands (1977), Sweden, Italy (1978), US West, Britain (1982), South Africa, France, Britain, Austria, Italy (1984) and finally in Netherlands (1985). Lauda won three world titles in 1975, 1977 and 1984 with Mercedes and Ferrari.
On August 1, 1976, he met with a severe accident during the second lap of the ‘German Grand Prix’. His Ferrari swerved from the track and after hitting an embankment skidded back in the path bursting into flames. Trapped in the wreckage, he inhaled toxic gases and endured severe burns.
Just 42 days after the crash, Lauda was again behind the wheel and took fourth place in the Italian Grand Prix in Monza and made the most amazing comeback ever in the history of sport as he went on to become world champion two more times, in 1977 and 1984, following his first Formula One title in 1975. He is one reason for making F1 a global sport.
In 1979 he suddenly took retirement from Formula 1 racing and returned to Austria to manage ‘Lauda Air’, the charter airline company that he had founded. He made a comeback to the racing track in 1982 after proving his mettle at the test conducted by McLaren.
He was also an aviation entrepreneur as he founded and ran three airlines, namely Lauda Air, Niki and Laudamotion.
After his retirement he became a consultant for ‘Ferrari’ in 1993 accepting the offer of Luca di Montezemolo. From mid-2000, he served the ‘Jaguar’ Formula One racing team as its team manager. He was inducted by ‘Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team’ in September 2012 as a non-executive chairman.
The rivalry between Lauda and James Hunt during the 1976 F1 season was the basis of the movie “Rush” (2013). He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1993.