A MILLENNIAL'S PERSPECTIVE ON THE PASSING OF NIKI LAUDA
When I first read that Niki Lauda had passed, I felt a very sincere and palpable sense of loss and sadness, the same feeling I felt when Chris Cornell of Soundgarden died. The feeling you get when someone who has been interwoven with the culture you consume on a daily basis suddenly ceases their involvement and the genre is left wanting. I was never fortunate enough to know Niki Lauda as he was behind the wheel, but I did know him through his legend.
Rush came out in 2013, right as I was starting to attend college for my second year in the states – I spent my first semester of freshman year abroad in Ireland – and I was infatuated with the portrayal of both Lauda and Hunt. Their rivalry was ferocious and it seemed like not even the satisfaction of beating the other was enough. There was also an admiration for each other; they acted like close friends and defended each other’s reputations dearly. The dynamics of their relationship only built up their images and reputations.
As most of those reading know, Lauda was obsessed with speed at a very early age. He took a very German approach to everything automotive. Clinical and very calculated, it was a surprise that Lauda would want to sign with Ferrari. But the match couldn’t have been better. Ferrari had the pedigree and resources, while Lauda had the approach to whip the manufacturer into proper shape. Lauda also signed at a time when Ferrari's F1 team was in need of some serious revamping. The relationship started off a little rocky, with Lauda telling Ferrari that their car was “shit”. With time, the two were able to work together and push to the top. Lauda then went to war with James Hunt throughout the 1970s. Both racing drivers pushed themselves further and further, competing to better the other.
After his near fatal crash at the Nurburgring, Lauda went into an extreme recovery process to make sure he was competition ready. Missing only two races and rushing through his recovery, Lauda proved that he was willing to push himself past physical limits to be the best.
This is the story that I’ve known about Niki Lauda. I know there is a lot more to his legacy, and I fully respect and admire the driver he shaped himself into. I also realize that the movie was just that, a movie. It wasn’t an exact documentary about the man himself, retelling his story perfectly. But it painted the picture that needed to be painted. Lauda saw no compromise with anything driving related.
Lauda could have been considered by some to be more than just a man. He drove for greatness and kept pushing himself and others without compromise. There’s a reason he’s considered one of the greatest racing drivers in history. But from where I sat, he was something far greater still. Like I mentioned earlier, I was never able to actually witness Niki Lauda doing what he did best. I just heard about and read the stories. He became a part of car culture. Interwoven into the development of some of the greatest pieces of automotive engineering and a leader in his collective. Lauda will be missed by many and his legacy will certainly live on.