Niki Lauda's quirks: "Everything had to be upright"
By Tomas Mota 20 mei 2020 | 09:23
Today (Wednesday 20 May) marks exactly one year since the three-time Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda passed away. Just like every champion, the Austrian also had his peculiarities. F1 Maximum rank them.
To be late
A deal is a deal, Lauda always thought. That also applied to him for the smaller things in life, such as being on time for appointments. He was very annoyed when someone else was late, such as Toto Wolff for a joint interview in 2017. "I very kindly asked him what time we will go the night before. At 8:00, he said."
Lauda then, after being fifty minutes early, was still waiting for his Mercedes companion at 8:00, which eventually showed up three minutes late. "My wife sent him a message that I was going to arrive later", Wolff told the double interview. "But Niki takes pleasure in it, because we works with penalty points if someone is late."
Wolff knows a lot about Lauda's quirks, as was shown during the fourth episode of the second season of Drive to Survive, the Netflix series about Formula 1. In the so-called "Mercedes episode", recorded during the 2019 German Grand Prix, the Austrian reminisces about the recently deceased Lauda.
For example, a car ride from the paddock to his hotel reminded him of Lauda, ??who also had his own rules during normal driving. "Most nights Niki and I were together. We always traveled together", he says. "Everything had to be upright in the car. The temperature had to be 22 degrees. Niki liked it when everything was like this."
Niki Lauda and the red cap were inextricably linked. The Formula 1 legend was never been seen in public without headgear. Its origins date back to 1976, the year in which Lauda almost burned alive in a very serious crash on the Nordschleife. A large part of his head was damaged with burns and he also lost a large portion of his hair.
Since his crash, Lauda has always been wearing a red cap. He seldom took it off, only when he wanted to express his respect for what he considered to be a unique achievement. One of those unique achievements was from Max Verstappen, who drove a legendary race filled with overtakings, during the 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix and finished third.
John Watson knows all about it, from Lauda's persuasion. In 1978, he was the teammate of the then reigning world champion with Bernie Ecclestone's Brabham team. According to him, the Austrian had the strength to do a lot without saying too much. "One of the strengths that Niki has is that he’s a very astute and intelligent man and he’s a very good operator for Niki Lauda", said the Irishman in Motorsport Magazine.
Watson is referring to Ecclestone's promise that he and Lauda would be treated equally with the team. The latter, however, brought his personal sponsor with Parmalat and thus earned a preferred role.
Another example is the qualification for the 1978 Monégasque Grand Prix. Lauda made three attempts to get to pole position, but failed. Nevertheless, he managed to squeeze out a fourth round, against the initial agreements. And that with tires originally intended for Watson. He claimed to have been blocked by another and came back into the pits. Bernie then dove into the cockpit and Niki said, "If I have one more set of tires, I guarantee I will take pole", Watson recalls.
"Bernie saw four tires and asked who they were for. A mechanic said those were my tires", the five-time race winner continued. Bernie said: "Put them under Lauda's car", and so I was at a disadvantage". Lauda then failed to take pole. He got no further than P3, one spot behind Watson. That was the persuasion that Niki had, having a strong personality. I didn't blame him. I just said, "Thanks, Bernie, thanks." (photo: Mercedes AMG F1)
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