Niki Lauda is one of Formula1’s elder statesmen, it is well known that he survived a near death experience after crashing his Ferrari horrifically on the second lap of the 1976 German Grand Prix at the notorious Nurburgring Nordschleife, thus when he talks about Formula 1 safety it’s worth listening.
During an interview with Graham Bensinger, Lauda spoke about the state of safety in the modern era, “Don’t continue trying to make Formula 1 completely safe, because people will lose interest in the end…”
“These Formula 1 drivers should be the best drivers in the world. This is what people aim for… People sometimes like to see accidents to see where the limits are… If we go too far, I think Formula 1 destroys itself.”
In his book, Lauda recalled how while in intensive care a priest was at his bedside administering last rites, yet six weeks later he was back in the cockpit wearing a special helmet as a result of his raw wounds caused by the fire ball that engulfed him on the day of the crash. The rest is history…
To this day the triple F1 World Champion wears a trademark cap to hide the burn scars he still carries from that fateful day.
He explained, “I had the cap on because the cap is my protection for stupid people looking at me stupidly. They always want to see what the hell’s going on under the cap, and to protect myself – feeling more comfortable, I put a cap on…”
“So there have been incidents where I was hurt by people… They treated me so bad that the only interest they had in me was to look what happens under the cap and that really annoyed me. So when people came and I felt this – look at my eyes if you wanna talk to me for Christ’s sake!”
“And by the way I have an accident as an excuse to look ugly. Some people don’t have this excuse – they are ugly,” he added in his typical frank style.
During the long and varied interview Lauda also had an indirect dig at Nico Rosberg, the Mercedes driver who became world champion last year – after winning his first and only title – but abruptly quit the sport much to the great Austrian’s chagrin at the time.
Lauda said on the subject, “I think winning one world championship – it’s easy in a way because you could have had the best car and you could do it. But winning more championships – then you see the difference between the drivers.”
“When you win more championships you have to be better every year. You have to improve your driving; you have to understand the cars. You’re driving different cars, different areas of technical rules and regulations. So the more-time world champions are the real good ones,” he added.
Lauda himself won three two F1 world championship titles, two with Ferrari in 1975 and 1977, and a third in 1984 with McLaren.
Bensinger spent two days with F1 icon Niki Lauda taping an episode of In Depth with Graham Bensinger, which will air across the United States this weekend. More here>>>
Big Question: Is Formula 1 too safe these days?