Hollywood biopics exaggerate. They make everything a spectacle, inflate events and personalities. That’s the point. It’s got to appeal to the masses, after all. After I finished watching Ron Howard’s ‘Rush’ back in February of 2014, I had those same thoughts. Surely the title fight wasn’t that close. No way was that guy really given the last rites. It all seemed too far fetched. So I decided to go down the rabbit hole and investigate.
And everything snowballed from there.
I found myself amazed by the accuracy of certain things. The crash, the recovery, the whole drama of the 1976 season. I found myself intrigued by the inaccuracies. The friendship between Niki and James, the attitudes towards safety, the politics. Each story led me to another and another. Within weeks, I was drowning in articles and photos surrounding 1970s F1, learning about more and more drivers and teams and following their storylines only to uncover another just as fascinating.
I met other people who found a love for F1 through the story of Hunt vs Lauda. Many of these people are still some of my closest friends. We bonded over their story, over the stories of others. We grew invested in modern F1 and ended up travelling the world together.
Wanderlust is a term I knew but not a term I understood until I got into F1. From getting three hours of sleep a night camping in Austria whilst living on (heavenly) bread and little else to trekking up a muddy hill after weathering monsoon like conditions all weekend in Austin, Texas. From walking along the Danube in Budapest to playing a chord on the piano at Senaca Lodge in Watkins Glen. Montreal. Belgium. Italy. Germany. Indiana. Boston. Miami. Detroit. Long Beach. All places I ended up visiting because of ‘Rush’.
Because of Niki.
The friends and the travelling would have been more than enough. It has been life-changing in and of itself. But I somehow also managed to land a job in motorsport which has been an incredible gift to me. I never take for granted how lucky I am to have what I would consider a dream job. Getting to look at photos of my favourite drivers – some that haven’t been seen since they were taken – is incredible. I adopted the 1970s as my era. It’s still the one I hold dearest to my heart.
Because of Niki.
I owe him so much. Daniel Brühl too, for such a compelling performance that led to me wanting to learn more about this fascinating character. His blunt responses, his cheeky banter, his skill inside the car and intelligence outside of it, his strength and tenacity to survive an injury that should have killed him or at the very least ended his career. His will power to come back after everything and still perform at the top of his game.
He said what he thought and made no apologies and that’s why he will always be my favourite. He was a legend. And he will rightfully be remembered as one.
Niki Lauda was the white rabbit who led me down that hole way back when. I’ve yet to climb back out.
After all, I quite like this little wonderland.
Rest easy, Niki. And then go raise a little hell on that racetrack in the sky.