Escape from the Green Hell: The Story of a Firm Austrian F1 Driver
Andreas Nikolaus Lauda – the Austrian who lived to conquer F1. There are few who get to do what Niki Lauda did in his time as the F1 driver. He emblazoned everything we love about racing. Passion. Aggression. Confidence. Intelligence. Those are just some of the qualities Lauda always had people seeing in him as he raced in his Ferrari 312T. His unmatched quality of driving has remained as the artifact people can always look upon to realize what greatness looks like. The scars on his face born in the Green Hell strike fear into the hearts of those unbeknownst to the true essence of determination.
The year was 1976. Niki Lauda had just won his Drivers’ Championship of 1975. Alongside him was his team, Scuderia Ferrari, who also reveled in the great victory. No one had predicted what was to come. 1976 also marked as one of the famous years of rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt. Both of the drivers shared many years of mutual respect. Although, on the racetrack, the story was entirely different. That became particularly apparent in the F1 season of 1976.
Hunt drove for McLaren and Lauda for Ferrari. Lauda started his racing year in style, winning the first two Grands Prix. But his winning did not last long. After a series of controversies and race wins shared among both pals, it was time for the toughest race of the season – the race at Nurburgring. Nurburgring, throughout its history of hosting races, has been known as one of the deadliest racetracks in the world. The German racetrack also has a nickname: The Green Hell.
Welcome to the Green Hell
Niki Lauda, having already won five Grands Prix before the start of the German Grand Prix became aware of the dangers of this racetrack. His mindfulness pushed him to speak out against the organization of the event. He also pushed others to help him with this cause for it did not seem logical to race on a cruel track. Lauda was right. His premonitions simply proved to be too much to bear for the rest of the drivers. So, the race went ahead as planned.
Amid the race, at the Nordschleife section, Lauda arrived on his Ferrari car at the turn when all of a sudden, his car crashed. The car then caught fire because it still had fuel in the tank. The fire in and around the car caused the Austrian driver to breathe fumes down his lungs while also scarring the right side of his face. Because the nearest help around this section of the track was too far away, Lauda’s situation deteriorated. Thankfully, other drivers of his team arrived in time to help him get out of the burning car.
Niki Lauda Return to the Paddock
Contrary to human expectations, Lauda returned to the paddock after premature recovery to race for the title again. He missed some races and still finished second that year to his friend and rival James Hunt who took away the F1 Drivers’ Championship of 1976 by being only one point above the tally of the great Niki Lauda.
Niki Lauda would then return to win the Drivers Championship in 1977. But, the 1976 story of his bravery has not faded all these years. His passion for driving pushed him across normal limits of what human beings can do. Lauda’s driving ideas proved to be extremely helpful to today’s best constructor in Mercedes. Having played a key role with Mercedes, the team has won six Constructors’ Championship in the last ten years alone with him. There is not much to add to his glory. Only that humanity continues to celebrate passionate warriors like him.