The story of Niki Lauda was remarkable, multiple championships as a driver and team boss. He died shortly before the Monaco Grand Prix, but how will Formula One remember its most influential drivers and team bosses?
Three times champion Lauda dies
Three times world champion and Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda has died aged seventy. The Austrian had been struggling with health issues and underwent a double lung transplant in August that required a two-month stay in hospital.
He was then hospitalised again for a short period at the beginning of 2019 after contracting a flu infection. There have been reports from Austrian press in the recent days that he had been receiving kidney dialysis in Switzerland.
Lauda has been one of the key figures in the sport since the 1970s as a driver, team boss and union leader.
A life-changing accident at the Nürburgring would define his career and life. He crashed in a fire ball, leaving him with burns and many thought that his career and life would be over.
Lauda made one and arguably the most remarkable comebacks in sporting history, and only missed out on the championship by a single point to McLaren’s James Hunt.
His second title for Ferrari came in 1977, before Lauda moved to Brabham for the 1978 season.
His big achievements off the track, are varied, in the weeks after 1994 San Marino Grand Prix he worked with the drivers to reform the trade union of drivers, Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.
His second return to F1 with Mercedes, pulling off one of the biggest coups in recent times convincing Lewis Hamilton to leave McLaren to join the German manufacturer. This has laid the foundations for five drivers and constructors championships.
In January, Lauda spent ten days in hospital while suffering from influenza. He had previously had two kidney transplants, the second kidney donated in 2005 by his then-girlfriend Birgit Wetzinger.
He had three children.
One of the moments which defined Lauda’s career was his fight with James Hunt for the 1976 title. While that season has been portrayed in the film Rush as a bitter rivalry, Hunt’s son Freddie says that’s far from the truth…
Lauda “very good friend” to Hunt
Freddie Hunt says that his father James, and three times champion Nikki Lauda were “very good friends” and “far closer” than what was portrayed in the film Rush. The Mercedes chairman and three times champion was laid to rest in Vienna on Wednesday.
The film depicted the 1976 season as an intense and unsavoury battle between the two as they fought for the title. However, Hunt insisted the rivalry was overplayed and that Lauda remained friends with his father until his death following the 1993 Canadian Grand Prix.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Hunt said, “The reality was they were far closer friends than what was portrayed in the movie. They were very good friends – I think they even shared a flat together at one point during their F3 days.”
“They were two young guys growing up through the racing ranks together. They maintained their friendship for the rest of my father’s life.” Freddie who is racing at Le Mans in a few weeks time, says that Lauda was always supportive and gave him good advice.
He added, “It’s very sad to lose him, very sad indeed”
Lauda’s funeral took place in the Austrian capital Vienna on Wednesday, with several of the F1 paddock in attendance. It was a chance for F1 to say farewell to one of its leading lights.
McLaren has a new team principal Andreas Seidl joined the team but that has put the direct involvement of CEO Zak Brown in doubt. While he isn’t going anywhere he insists that he will not be stepping away…
Brown not stepping back from F1
McLaren CEO Zak Brown is insisting that he will not be taking a step back from his involvement with the F1 team, despite the arrival of its new team principal Andreas Seidl.
Seidl, who joined the team from Porsche’s WEC programme, started work with the team earlier this month, and his first race was the Spanish Grand Prix. The German has been given responsibility for running the racing team, Brown says that does not mean that he will be lessening his own involvement in the outfit.
Asked by Motorsport.com, how Seidl’s arrival changes his role, he said “No, no, no, I definitely don’t take a step back.”
“It has always been the plan to bring in dedicated, exclusively focused leadership on the F1 racing team. We need someone waking up every day and making sure that the car can go as fast as possible.” Brown added.
Brown said that is job is to run and grow the business and that he now feels that the team has the right personnel in place. It is his belief that once Seidl gets stuck into it he “will make his mark. I’m really pleased with the team we have on the field.”
Brown is also clear that Seidl has been given a mandate to do what he thinks is needed to move McLaren forward. The American added, “I think it is his racing team to run. He is a consultative team member type of individual, so he has got free reign to do what he wants.”
He also believes that Seidl’s arrival as well as new technical director James Key that quicker progress should follow soon. Adding “I think last year when we started making change that was the step forward, and Andreas joining is just another big step in that process.
Stewards decisions are often contentious, but Haas team principal Gunther Steiner says the system is broken. He was irritated after stewards awarded Pierre Gasly a three-place grid penalty for impeding Haas driver Romain Grosjean during qualifying, whereas in Bahrain it was the other way round. So is it broken?
Stewarding broken system – Steiner
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner believes that some stewards “are just not up to being stewards” and feels like a “broken record” talking about inconsistent decision-making.
Following qualifying in Monaco Steiner was irritated after the stewards gave Pierre Gasly a three-place grid penalty and a licence penalty point for impeding Haas driver Romain Grosjean during qualifying.
In Bahrain, Grosjean was awarded the same penalty, when he held up Lando Norris during qualifying, which Stiner believed was wrong. Asked by Motorsport.com if he would raise his concern, Steiner said: “There’s no point in raising it because nobody does anything about it anyway. What can you do? How many times do I have to say it? It’s like a broken record.
“Some of the stewards are just not up to being stewards. I cannot raise it more because after a while…I just say it like it is. I’m not going to spend more time writing letters to people anymore.”
He said some stewards needed to read the rules and they shouldn’t have penalised both drivers. Steiner said that because of the circumstances, either the Gasly decision was wrong or it was an error to award the same penalty to Grosjean in Bahrain.
He argued that Grosjean had to react to the slowing Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel and this also caught out his team, both factors that were acknowledged publicly by Lando Norris, the driver Grosjean baulked.
But, he says that Gasly “out in the middle of the track on a fast part of the track, standing basically still for no reason because he wasn’t told by his team.”
Going into last weekend Charles Leclerc was looking to become the first Monegasque to win his home Grand Prix since 1931 and the first since F1 began in 1950. Ahead of the race, he spoke of his memories
Looking to follow Chiron
Charles Leclerc heads into the weekend looking to follow in the foot steps of Louis Chiron and become the first Monegasque to win his home Grand Prix since 1931 and the first since F1 began in 1950.
Although Chiron stood on the podium in 1950, no Monacan has taken higher than third. This weekend, the twenty-one year old who has made a terrific start Ferrari career will achieve his dream of racing for Ferrari at the most prestigious race of the season.
Leclerc reminded the media, “My first memory of the Grand Prix, I was probably about four, something like this. I always kept this image in my head: I was at a friend’s apartment, out of turn one, playing with the small (toy) cars, watching the Grand Prix at the same time. I think Michael (Schumacher) was at Ferrari.”
“(I was) obviously watching the red cars more than the others and yeah, just enjoying and dreaming of being there one day.” Leclerc was robbed arguably of the win from pole in Bahrain when being hampered by an engine issue in a commanding victory.
However, the last two Grand Prix weekends in Monte Carlo have been cruel, forced to retire while leading the F2 race and crashing out of his first F1 race in Monaco last year.
Boyhood hero Ayrton Senna, holds the record with six wins, including five in a row between 1989 and 1993.
As a boy, Leclerc travelled to school on those same streets where he now stares out from posters advertising the race. The principality is still very much home rather than just a place for millionaires to live.
Leclerc was not wealthy, born in Monaco but his family are natives. A win for him would mean a lot after his fathers death in June 2017 and his god father Jules Bianchi, who died from injuries at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.
Asked how fame had impacted his life, he said “To be honest, I think there are drivers more famous than me living in Monaco. It’s great to have a weekend at home. It’s a city that I’ve been growing up in and it’s a huge honour for me to be driving in these streets.”
Ninety years since the first Grand Prix in Monte Carlo, can Leclerc become the first Monegasque to win in eighty-eight years?
He was forced to retire from the race after contact with a wall causing a puncture, and that is all from this edition of Reporters, goodbye