The Formula 1 racing calendar is nearing its end and Sebastien Vettel, 24, has secured the 2011 World Drivers’ Championship, even before the last races have been held. That makes it back to back championships for 2010 and 2011 for Vettel, the youngest double world champion in Formula One history.
Vettel is pictured above with former F1 World Champion Niki Lauda (R) before the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit on March 27, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.
Some Lauda history:
Andreas Nikolaous “Niki” Lauda was born in 1949 in Austria and became a race driver against the wishes of his wealthy family. In 1975, driving for Ferrari, he won the World Championship. Lauda was well in the points score lead in 1976 when he crashed on the second lap in the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, an event he had sought to have boycotted by the other drivers because of inadequate safety arrangements. His car hit the embankment and rolled back onto the track, then was hit by another car. Lauda was trapped in his burning vehicle and suffered severe burns to his head. He also inhaled toxic gases that cauterised his lungs and damaged his blood and had various broken bones. Although the burns caused extensive scarring, he elected not to have cosmetic surgery, having only enough reconstructive work done to cause his eyelids to close properly. His courage and his scarring have become his most well known attributes. Lauda has lost most of his right ear and has extensive head scarring, resulting in his trademark wearing of a cap.
The Lauda crash
Film of the accident is at:
Despite the seriousness of his injuries. Lauda returned to racing only 49 days/2 races after his crash, coming fourth in the Italian GP. Lauda declined to race in the torrential rain of the Japanese GP, the final race of the season, a stance seen as a brave and sensible decision. Unfortunately iy also allowed James Hunt to win the 1976 World Championship by one point after coming third.
Relations between Ferrari and Lauda became tense as a result of Lauda’s decision to withdraw from the Japanese GP but he nonetheless won the 1977 Championship.
Leaving Ferrari for Brabham in 1978, he had two lacklustre seasons and retired to focus on the charter airline, Lauda Air. that he had founded in Austria. Needing money to shore upm the airline, he returned to F1 in 1982 and won his third World Championship in 1984. In 1985 he retired again to focus on Lauda Air. He was team manager of the Jaguar F1 team for 2001 and 2002 and in 2003 formed a new airline. Niki. As the holder of a commercial pilot’s licence he sometimes pilots the aircraft himself.
A movie is to be made about him. The screenplay is reportedly being written by Peter Morgan, best known for his work on Frost/Nixon and The Queen. The lead actor not having been decided, Lauda is quoted as having commented "Anyone who is 25 or 26 with his right ear burnt off and dreams to be made up to look like me can start making plans."
Niki Lauda in 1976, pre-crash.
Niki Lauda today
Some Lauda humour:
Caution: the next item contains risque language . .
(Click on the image to enlarge)
A snake and a rabbit met each other in the dark.
“What do you look like?”, the snake asked.
“I've got long ears, two big hind legs and a fluffy tail.”
“Aha”, the snake said, “then you must be a rabbit.”
“Yes, I am. What do you look like?” the rabbit asked.
“I'm bald all over my body and I've got no ears” the snake said.
“Ah.” the rabbit said, “then you must be Niki Lauda.”
The final item is supposedly a true story.
Prior to the 2006 German Grand Prix, Lauda, Bernie Ecclestone and others walked to the old Nurburgring and had a drink at the point where Lauda had crashed in 1976. Bernie had earlier planted a pig’s ear in the grass. When he was there with Niki Lauda, he picked up the object, held it up and said “Niki, I’ve found your ear.” It was reportedly taken in good humour by Lauda.