Those of you who watched the Hollywood movie Rush would know about Niki Lauda, the three-time world champion in Formula 1 who passed away on May 20 at the age of 70. The legendary figure in motor racing hailed from Austria and was born on February 22, 1949 at Vienna.
The three titles that he claimed came in the 1975, 1977 and 1984 seasons. He started his career with Ferrari in 1974. The then relatively unknown driver recorded his maiden F1 victory in the Argentine Grand Prix of that season. It was clear even then that he was a special talent but due to various issues with his team, Lauda ended the season with just two Grand Prix victories.
The 1975 season started badly for Lauda but from the fifth Grand Prix onwards, the young Austrian picked up the pace and started winning races with much more regularity. Five wins that season gave him his first driver's championship title.
Terrible accident halts his run
He looked good to repeat his feat in the next season and was leading the points table by a wide margin. But then, a horrible accident at the German Grand Prix on the Nurburgring circuit led to him suffering serious injuries and burns as well as sliding into a coma. However, the brave racer made an incredible comeback in that season itself and won the championship easily in 1977.
He retired from racing in 1979 and decided to focus on his business. But in 1982, McLaren got him to return to the arena and he won the driver's championship a third time in 1984 – this time with McLaren.
But after enduring a horrible run of form in 1985, Lauda decided to call it quits – this time without any chance of coming back. He shot back into public limelight when in 2013, a movie named Rush depicted his rivalry with James Hunt, his British arch-rival. The two men were shown as possessing diametrically opposed personalities with Lauda being a serious, hard-working professional while Hunt was flamboyant and a playboy-ish character. The movie fictionalised the struggle between the two for the driver's championship in the 1976 season – eventually won by Hunt.
Lauda's death was relatively peaceful as he passed away in his sleep. The former racer is survived by four sons and a daughter.