So, the Austrian racer who competed despite his powerful family’s wishes, has greeted the chequered flag in the sky, aged 70 – surviving one of the most horrific Grand Prix crashes ever, and yet it was the lingering scars from his Nurburgring crash, combined with recent health issues which claimed the life of this outstanding man.
During his incident-studded career he raced in 171 F1 races, winning 25, and in the process he became a triple world champion. In my mind he was one of the great champion drivers.
|Start of 1976 Formula One Grand Prix de Monaco|
I had the good fortune to attend the 1976 Monaco Grand Prix, which Niki led from start to finish, and with help from Sir Jackie Stewart, I was able to interview Niki in the courtyard of the Automobile Club de Monaco in June 1976.
Despite almost complete exhaustion he answered my questions with grace and dignity, when he recognized that not only was I interviewing him as the Editor of my car magazine back in Australia (MODERN MOTOR), but because of my enthusiasm for F1 I was posing sensible questions, which he took his time to answer, despite a crush of F1-accredited reporters waiting to speak to him.
I saw him again at the 2011 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, discussing the changes since that Sunday in Monaco in '76.
Of course he not only has his three World Championships to celebrate, but a long and distinguished career with Ferrari, and his creation of three airlines carrying his name.
Niki was a no BS sort of guy, who thought in black and white, not abstract tangents. He was precise, eloquent, determined and opinionated and I admired him for all those qualities as well as his racing achievements.
Niki Lauda, an all time champion.