Niki Lauda, ​​the man who got Ferrari back on track

Legendary, mythical winning machine. Since its inception, Ferrari has been one of the most dreamed-up teams and has one of the biggest award lists in history. From the 1950s and the creation of the championship, Scuderia acquired pilot titles with Alberto Ascari (1952 and 1953), Juan Manuel Fangio (1956), Mike Hawthorn (1958), Phil Hill (1961) and finally with John Surtees (1964). And at the same time, the brand with the striding horse wins the constructors’ championships at the same time as the last two kroner for the pilots.

But after the coronation of the Surtees, Ferrari stagnates, and although it remains competitive and presents itself as a customer for the title, a long period of scarcity sets in. In Maranello, the shop window fills up, where the trophies are no longer displayed as quickly.

An ultimatum that pays off

While Ferrari chases the titles, a young Austrian joins the Formula 1 world through the back door and pays for his driving. This is Niki Lauda. If his first race did not leave a strong impression, a stroke of genius at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1973 would attract all eyes to the flocked BRM number 21. On many occasions he fought for the podium with Jacky Ickx and slammed into the eye of Enzo Ferrari, who recruited him for the following season.

Commendatore does not know yet, but he is making a big coup. From his arrival on the Maranello team in 1974, Lauda will do anything to bring Ferrari back to the title. And his mission begins in pre-season testing. The Austrian is furious at the performance of the famous red car and believes that it is not normal to produce such a single seat with the facilities owned by the brand.

Enzo Ferrari is stuck for the fast and is ready with its new driver. He must win two seconds per round, otherwise he will be fired. A week later, new trials are organized and Lauda keeps her word. His 312 B3 has been transformed.

11 years later

Over the course of the season, the performance of his new machine even allows him to be a serious contender for the title, but mishaps and rookie mistakes compromise his chances. But the Austrian put it back the following year.

Despite a discreet start to the season, the “computer” wakes up in Monaco and wins three in a row before its series is stopped at Zandvoort by James Hunt. The Austrian then put the gear forward and reaped a new success in France, pulverizing the record at the Nürburgring in less than 7 minutes before winning the title ahead of tifosi at Monza. To end the season in style, Niki Lauda continued to win there at Watkins Glen before raising the level in 1976.

“My first priority was to put Reutemann in his place and secure the team number 1 place. By the third race of the season, it was more or less done.”

During this exercise, he will establish his dominance a little more. In the season’s first nine Grand Prix, the Austrian won five times, and before the German Grand Prix – the turning point of the season – he was 23 points ahead of James Hunt, his direct opponent. Then absent due to his accident, he only returned to Monza, where a certain Carlos Reutemann, whom Lauda convicted “A good pilot but nothing extraordinary”is present as the third pilot.

From then on, the relationship with Enzo Ferrari was strained and Lauda was no longer considered driver number 1. Voluntary retirement in Fuji did not help the situation and the Austrian driver was no longer guaranteed for 1977. But he ends up keeping it. “I was called up and they told me I could stay, but Reutemann would be number 1 on the team.”he explains in his autobiography.

Taken together, the “computer” has only one mission in mind. “My first priority was to put Reutemann in his place and secure the number 1 spot on the team. By the third race of the season, it was more or less done. »

But as the season progressed, he no longer supported the way the team was run and signed for Brabham in Zanvoort (Netherlands). He slams the door of the Scuderia as soon as he achieves the title, in Monza. “I was happy that my departure was like a slap in the face to Enzo Ferrari. I was very short, very nimble and did not give an “I will not stay here” explanation. » The love affair lasted only four short years, but the relationship allowed Ferrari to regain three constructor titles and two driver titles.

Angry, Enzo Ferrari launches “a few selected remarks” to his former driver and no longer speaks to him until he tested on the Imola in 1982.

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