On this day 72 years ago Niki Lauda was born: A look at his F1 honours

On this day 72 years ago Niki Lauda was born: A look at his F1 honours

22-02-2021 08:00

On this day back in 1949, one of Formula 1’s greatest drivers was born. Niki Lauda went on to win three F1 World Championships as a driver. In his later life, the Austrian worked as an advisor for Mercedes and played a pivotal part in their current success. To celebrate his life, we take a look back through the history books. 

Lauda made his debut at his home Grand Prix in 1971. He raced for the British team March. He started 21st but had moved up to 18th on the opening lap. He remained towards the back of the grid before retiring on the 20th lap of the race.

That was his only race during the 1971 season but made a permanent return for March in the 1972 season. Lauda made 12 further starts for his debut team before moving to BRM for the 1973 F1 season. 

By the end of that season, Lauda had still only managed to score two points. Despite that low tally combined with a high retirement rate, Ferrari were interested and signed Lauda who soon found success. 

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Coming out on top 

In his first race for Ferrari, Lauda finished second. His first win came during the 1974 Spanish Grand Prix. It was just his fourth outing in Ferrari colours. 

The Austrian started from pole but lost the lead to Ronnie Peterson on the opening lap. But it was Lauda who controlled the second half of the race after Peterson retired due to overheating problems. 

He went on to win the Dutch Grand Prix, leaving his podium tally at five for the 1974 season. He finished fourth in the World Championship. 

But all that was a sign of things to come. Lauda found a very successful formula by going on to win 13 races in the following three seasons. In two of those three seasons, he came away with the World Championship title.

World titles

A dominate period in the middle of the 1975 World Championship saw Lauda comfortably win the title for the first time. Lauda was involved in a major crash during the 1976 German Grand Prix which left him with serious burns. He missed just two races and was back on the podium within two months. 

The phenomenally short recovery time kept Lauda in the Championship fight with James Hunt. However, a DNF in the season finale in Fuji meant that Hunt won the title. Interestingly, this retirement came just one lap, with Lauda suggesting the conditions were too wet to race. 

But he was back on top in 1977. He didn’t score any points during the final two events of the season, which further highlights his strong performances mid-season. He raced for Ferrari 57 times before a two-year stint at Brabham. 

His time at Brabham ended suddenly. A difficult 1979 season followed and his frustration grew with the Brabham team. He withdrew from the Canadian Grand Prix and quickly announced his retirement from the sport. 

That wasn’t the end, however. After a short hiatus, he finished his career at McLaren. First racing alongside John Watson and later Alain Prost. During the final Grand Prix of the 1984 season, Prost and Lauda were battling for the title. Prost won this race and was looking set to win the title until Nigel Mansell had some trouble out on track. 

This pushed Lauda up to second, giving him just enough points to win the World Championship. This was the tightest margin ever, with just half a point between the two. After 58 Grands Prix at the British team, Lauda called it a day. 

During those 13 seasons, Lauda managed to win 25 Formula 1 races. Enough to keep him inside the top 10 for all-time wins today. Lauda was one of the most popular members of the paddock. When he passed away in May 2019, the F1 world was saddened. 

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