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Niki Lauda
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F1 Icons: Niki Lauda

Niki Lauda had one of the most notable careers in F1 history, winning the world championship three times as well as finishing runner-up in a season when he suffered a near-fatal crash.

The Austrian was known for his attention to detail and engineering skill and won his first two titles with Ferrari in 1975 and 1977 before initially retiring after the 1979 season. 

He returned with McLaren in 1982, however, and claimed a third world championship win in 1984 before retiring from racing for good at the end of the following season.

He was part of further world championship success with the Mercedes team that dominated in the second half of the 2010s and died at the age of 70 in May 2019, having previously undergone lung and kidney transplants.

Formula 1

Niki Lauda's early career

Born Andreas Nikolaus Lauda, Niki Lauda came from a wealthy industrial family but went against his family's wishes to embark on a racing career. He raced Minis, Formula Vee and sportscars before taking out a loan to secure a Formula 2 drive with the March team in 1971 and 1972.

He made his first F1 appearance in a one-off drive at his home race in 1971, retiring due to handling issues after 20 laps, but won the British Formula 2 championship in 1972, the same year that he entered Formula 1 full time.

Lauda failed to score a point for the March team in 1972 when his best finish was seventh in South Africa - points were only awarded to the top six in those days - but he made a good impression when driving an underpowered car for the BRM team in 1973. He scored his first points with a fifth-placed finish in the Belgian Grand Prix and had been in third place in Monaco when his gearbox failed. 

A recommendation to Enzo Ferrari from Lauda's BRM teammate Clay Regazzoni saw Lauda joining the Swiss driver at Ferrari in 1974.

Lauda finished fourth in his first season with the Italian team, winning his first F1 races in the Spanish and Dutch Grands Prix. He led the championship after the British Grand Prix in July, but failed to finish any of the remaining five races that season.

Niki Lauda's championship years

Lauda made no mistake in 1975, becoming world champion in front of the Ferrari fans at Monza. He won five of the 14 races to finish 19.5 points clear of Emerson Fittipaldi, who was the only other driver to win more than once.

Lauda led the 1976 world championship by 23 points going into the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring after winning five of the first nine races. On the second lap, Lauda crashed heavily and his car burst into flames. He suffered serious burns and inhaled dangerous fumes that almost claimed his life.

The Austrian miraculously missed only two races but managed only one podium finish in the final four rounds and his decision to retire from the season-ending Japanese Grand Prix due to dangerous conditions in heavy rain saw McLaren's James Hunt pip him to the title by a single point.

He reclaimed the title in 1977, his final year with Ferrari, finishing 17 points clear of Jody Scheckter despite quitting the team before the final two races.

Lauda finished fourth and 14th in two seasons with the Parmalat team, winning two races, before announcing his retirement.

After two years out of the sport, Lauda returned with McLaren in 1982, finishing fifth in the championship with two wins, and he was 10th in 1983 before securing his third world title the following season. 

McLaren dominated in 1984, winning 12 of the 16 races and while Lauda's teammate Alain Prost had more wins (7-5), Lauda's four second places helped him beat the Frenchman by just 1.5 points.

Lauda raced just one more season, with his final F1 win coming in the 1985 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort after a great battle with Prost. He finished 10th in his final season, finishing with 25 career wins.

Niki Lauda's roles after racing

Lauda had already been busy off the track during his racing years, founding the airline Lauda Air, but he was also involved in the sport after hanging up his race suit.

Lauda had a role at Ferrari before becoming team principal of the Jaguar team in 2001 and in 2012 he became non-executive chairman of Mercedes. Lauda helped to recruit Lewis Hamilton to the team and played a key role in their subsequent success.

Niki Lauda's F1 record

  • 1971 March, Not classified
  • 1972 March, Not classified
  • 1973 BRM, 18th
  • 1974 Ferrari, 4th, 2 wins
  • 1975 Ferrari, world champion, 5 wins
  • 1976 Ferrari, 2nd, 5 wins
  • 1977 Ferrari, world champion, 3 wins
  • 1978 Parmalat, 4th, 2 wins
  • 1979 Parmalat, 14th
  • 1982 McLaren, 5th, 2 wins
  • 1983 McLaren, 10th
  • 1984 McLaren, world champion, 5 wins
  • 1985 McLaren, 10th, 1 win

Niki Lauda Net Worth

Niki Lauda's net worth at the time of his death in 2019 was reported to be around $200 million.

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