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Niki Lauda's great rivalry with James Hunt - and the crash which nearly killed him

Mirror logo Mirror 21/05/2019 Hassan Rashed
James Hunt et al. that are talking to each other: Niki Lauda of Austria, driver of the #11Scuderia Ferrari SpA Ferrari 312T2 Ferrari flat-12 talks to rival James Hunt, driver of the #1 MarlboroTeam McLaren M26 Ford V8 before the start of the Belgian Grand Prix on 5th June 1977 at the Circuit Zolder in Limburg, Belgium. (Photo by Grand Prix Photo/Getty Images) © Getty Images Niki Lauda of Austria, driver of the #11Scuderia Ferrari SpA Ferrari 312T2 Ferrari flat-12 talks to rival James Hunt, driver of the #1 MarlboroTeam McLaren M26 Ford V8 before the start of the Belgian Grand Prix on 5th June 1977 at the Circuit Zolder in Limburg, Belgium. (Photo by Grand Prix Photo/Getty Images)

Formula One legend Niki Lauda has passed away at the age of 70.

The Austrian won three Formula One world championships, with his first coming in 1975 before claiming two further titles.

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More on this story:

Lauda: A story of fire and ice (AFP)

Lauda dies aged 70 (Guardian)

Lauda's life in pictures (Photos)

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He was well-known for his rivalry with McLaren driver James Hunt and was at the heart of one of the most dramatic seasons in the history of Grand Prix racing in 1976.

A year after his winning his first title, Lauda won four of the first six races and looked destined to set a new points total on the way to retaining his crown.

However, Lauda - racing at for Ferrari at the time - was badly injured at the beginning of August after crashing during the German Grand Prix.

Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Grand Prix of Portugal, Estoril, 21 October 1984. Niki Lauda and Alain Prost on the podium, brothers in arms after the former won the Championship by a mere half a point. (Photo by Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images) © Paul-Henri Cahier Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Grand Prix of Portugal, Estoril, 21 October 1984. Niki Lauda and Alain Prost on the podium, brothers in arms after the former won the Championship by a mere half a point. (Photo by Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images)

Lauda had complained about safety shortcomings at the Nurburgring and the access difficulties for the emergency services in the event of a crash.

He raced anyway but crashed on the second lap, causing his car to burst into flames, and he suffered horrific burns before he was pulled from the wreckage by Arturo Merzario and Guy Edwards.

It was an accident that would go on to mark him for the rest of his life.

a man wearing a hat and glasses: The accident left Lauda with bad burns on his face © Mirrorpix The accident left Lauda with bad burns on his face In addition to leaving him with scars on his face, it cost the Austrian parts of his ear and he regularly wore a baseball cap to conceal the injury afterwards.

After seeing what happened to Lauda, Ferrari chose not to compete at the next race in Austria.

In the absence of the Austrian, Hunt went on to win in both Germany and the Netherlands and he became many people's favourite for the title.

However, Lauda made a remarkable comeback at the Italian Grand Prix just six weeks after the episode and missed just two races of the season.

He later said about the crash: “When I had the accident in Germany, it was only a question of a month or a little bit more.

Niki Lauda, Mauro Forghieri, Grand Prix of Italy, Monza, 12 September 1976. (Photo by Bernard Cahier/Getty Images) © Bernard Cahier Niki Lauda, Mauro Forghieri, Grand Prix of Italy, Monza, 12 September 1976. (Photo by Bernard Cahier/Getty Images)

"Yes, I had burns - I was burned - but I recovered quickly. This time it was really long but I am still here.

“I have to be honest: no, I was never scared. I was in the hands of excellent specialists. I put my trust in them.

"I knew that it would be hard, very hard. In these conditions I knew there was only one thing I could do: fight.

Niki Lauda le 18 août 1984 lors du Grand Prix d'Autriche. (Photo by Bernard BAKALIAN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images) © Bernard BAKALIAN/GAMMA-RAPHO Niki Lauda le 18 août 1984 lors du Grand Prix d'Autriche. (Photo by Bernard BAKALIAN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images) He entered the final race of the season in Japan with a three-point over his rival but missed out back-to-back championships as Hunt took the title.

The track at the Fuji Speedway witnessed heavy rain on the day of the Grand Prix, and although Lauda started the race, he chose to withdraw after three laps, believing the conditions to be too dangerous.

Even with Lauda's withdrawal, Hunt needed to come fourth in order to become world champion and eventually finished the race in third place to clinch the title.

Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, Michele Alboreto, Grand Prix of Austria, Zeltweg, 19 August 1984. (Photo by Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images) © Paul-Henri Cahier Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, Michele Alboreto, Grand Prix of Austria, Zeltweg, 19 August 1984. (Photo by Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images)

After that disappointment, Lauda did go on to claim his second title the following season with 72 points, while Hunt finished fifth.

He retired following the end of the 1979 season but returned in 1982 before winning the championship for a third time in 1984, this time with McLaren.

He walked away from the sport once again in 1985 and later became the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes F1 team. 

Gallery: The evolution of Formula One cars (Photo Services)

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