Tuesday 22nd February 1949
Born on this day, Niki Lauda, three-time (1975, 1977, 1984) Formula One World Champion. The Austrian is currently the only driver to have been champion for both Ferrari and McLaren, the sport’s two most successful constructors. He is considered by some as one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time. More recently an aviation entrepreneur, he has founded and run three airlines (Lauda Air, Niki, and Laudamotion). He is also Bombardier Business Aircraft brand ambassador. He was also a consultant for Scuderia Ferrari and team manager of the Jaguar Formula One racing team for two years. He is currently working as a pundit for German TV during Grand Prix weekends and acts as non-executive chairman of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team. Lauda owns 10% of the team.
Having emerged as Formula One’s star driver amid a 1975 title win and leading the 1976 championship battle, Lauda was seriously injured in a crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring during which his Ferrari burst into flames, and he came close to death after inhaling hot toxic fumes and suffering severe burns.
However, he survived and recovered enough to race again just six weeks later at the Italian Grand Prix. Although he narrowly lost the title to James Hunt that year, he won his second Ferrari crown the year after during his final season at the team. After a couple of years at Brabham and two years’ hiatus, Lauda returned and raced four seasons for McLaren between 1982 and 1985 – during which he won the 1984 title by 0.5 points over his team colleague Alain Prost.