Niki Lauda is one of the most successful Formula One drivers of all time. He happens to be the sole driver to have been the champion of two of the sport’s most successful constructors, McLaren and Ferrari. In 1979, he survived a close brush with death while driving his Ferrari at the Nürburgring during the German Grand Prix. He has since gone on to win the F1 World Drivers’ Champion three times in his career. Since retiring from the sport, he has successfully founded and managed three airlines (Laudamotion, Lauda Air, and Niki). In addition, during Grand Prix weekends, he works as an expert for German TV. Other interesting career and family facts are below.
Niki Lauda – Biography, Age
Nikolaus “Niki” Lauda was born in Vienna, Austria, on the 22nd of February 1949. Interestingly, he was born into a wealthy family. Due to his social status at birth, his dreams of becoming a racer were not supported by his family, nevertheless, he pursued a career in racing regardless. Normally, in Central Europe, racers start off with the Mini of which he did, before moving on to the Formula Vee. Later on, Niki advanced to drive Chevron sports cars and private Porsches. In this process, his career seemed to slow down as he wasn’t getting the desired result he initially imagined. He then decided to go for a bank loan of £30,000, which he succeeded in getting through a life insurance policy.
This loan could have been gotten easily from his family but due to the fact that he had issues with them concerning his chosen career, he had to source funds elsewhere. With the loan, Niki Lauda was able to buy a slot in the fledgling March team as a Formula Two (F2) driver in 1971.
Ferrari And Near-Death Experience
In 1972, he was promoted to the F1 team where he drove for March in F1 and F2. In 1974, he was recommended to Enzo Ferrari (the owner of the Ferrari team) by his former teammate Clay Ragazzoni. This high recommendation prompted Ferrari to quickly sign Niki Lauda which in turn helped him settle all his previous debts. In his debut race for Ferrari at the Argentine Grand Prix, he finished second. Three races after, in the Spanish Grand Prix, he won the race. This would, in turn, mark his very first win as well the first for Ferrari since the year 1972.
In the year 1995, with a third-place finish, he got his first championship win at the Italian Grand Prix at Monz. Tragedy almost struck on the 1st of August 1976 when he was involved in an accident during the German Grand Prix race at the Nürburgring. His car burst into flames after he hit an embankment off the track. Because he was trapped in the wreckage, he inhaled toxic fumes and had serious burns to his head before he was pulled out. The incident left the right side of his hair and ear badly burnt. As a result of this, he wears a cap at all times when he appears in public and has also taken advantage of it by wearing branded caps of companies that endorse him over the years.
Thankfully, the gory accident didn’t lead to the end of his career as he was back on track just six months after getting mild reconstructive surgery. He would then win his second title at the Drivers’ Championship at the United States Grand Prix. After many years of a successful career run, he decided to retire in 1979 and found his first airline, Lauda Air. He later returned to racing in 1982 and won his final championship title in 1984, bringing his total championship titles to three.
Personal Life – Wife And Children
Apart from his career as a sportsman, Niki Lauda is also a family man. In the early years of his career, Niki got married to his first wife, Marlene Knaus. Together, they welcomed two sons named, Mathias Lauda and Lukas Lauda. In the course of the marriage, Lauda cheated on Marlene, and this extramarital affair produced a son named, Christoph Lauda. Unfortunately, this led to their separation as their divorce was finalized in 1991 after fifteen years of marriage. He would later re-marry but not until 2008. This time, he got married to a former flight attendant of his, Birgit Wetzinger, a woman who is also 30 years younger than himself. The following year, in September, Birgit gave birth to twins, a boy named Max and a girl named, Mia.
When Niki Lauda was ill and needed to have a new kidney transplant due to the failure of kidney he received in 1997 from his brother, lovingly, his wife Birgit gave up one of hers to save him. On the 2nd of August 2018, in his native Austria, he successfully underwent a lung transplant operation.
As with most sports, athletes are required to be in the best of health, most especially if they intend to compete at their best. Though some sports may require specific body structures or weight others are purely based on skillset. With formula 1, the skill of a racer is much more valued than the aesthetic look of features. Though it doesn’t hurt to have a tall height and fit body frame which may come in handy during interviews or endorsement deals other than these, skill is a definite requirement in the sporting niche. Nevertheless, with Niki Lauda’s talent as a driver, he stands tall at an average height of 5 feet 7 inches (1.7 m) and maintains a healthy weight of 143 lbs (65 kg), even after so many years.