The start of August marked exactly thirty years since Niki Lauda suffered permanent facial burns, and nearly lost his life, in a fiery shunt in Germany.
The triple world champion, still a member of F1’s travelling fraternity at the age of 57 as a TV analyst, crashed his Ferrari at the Nurburgring’s now-defunct ‘Nordschleife’ on 1 August 1976, and was pulled from the burning wreck by fellow racers including the fearless Arturo Merzario.
Scarred Lauda, who today wears a red cap, told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper on Tuesday that he remembers nothing about the impact.
”The last thing I remember is exiting the pits,” he explained, ”and then I was in hospital.”
Another racer and rescuer, Guy Edwards, later recalled: ”Lauda was conscious most of the time and was saying ‘get me out!”’
Lauda’s helmet was thrown off in the shunt, leaving much of his face and head scarred for life. In hospital, though, the situation was graver and a priest read Lauda his last rites.
Miraculously, he missed only two grands prix and finished fourth at Monza the following month.
”After an incident like that the best way to forget about it for me was to return as soon as possible,” Lauda says.
He denies, however, that 1 August 1976 was the worst day of his life, recalling with more emotion the death of 224 ‘Lauda Air’ passengers on one of his jet planes in Thailand.gmmf1 dailyf1news.com