Andreas Nikolaus Lauda and the Scuderia Ferrari had a profound relationship, a happy and sometimes controversial liaison with great victories and also some polemics.
Enzo Ferrari called the young and promising Austrian to Maranello in 1974. Already at his debuts in Spain and Holland Niki gave it his all for victory. The fight for the title was held inside the Ferrari family with Niki’s teammate and competitor Ragazzoni and the Brazilian Fittipaldi, who gained the upper hand in this year. 1974 was a test for the Scuderia of the Prancing Horse, with a new driver and the development of what went on to be the winning car, the Ferrari 312 T (T stands for transversal).
In ‘75 Lauda was not only part of the Team but also in Enzo Ferrari’s heart, who treated him as part of the family. On the same wavelength as the Scuderia’s Manager, Luca di Montezemolo, Lauda gained victory after victory. In 1975 the Austrian was World Champion for the first time and brought the Constructors’ and the Drivers’ Title to Maranello – after eleven years.
The 1976 season seemed to start in the best possible way for the new World Champion, but the balance inside the Company started to be uncertain. Luca di Montezemolo left Ferrari to work at FIAT and with Daniele Audetto, his successor, the driver-Scuderia set up changed. Audetto chose Regazzoni over Lauda, but a tough Lauda didn’t want to take a back seat and continued to win on the track. A banal domestic accident forced him to slow down, provoking uproar in the international press, which was always very present during Lauda’s years at the Prancing Horse.
Ferrari was still winning, but internal disagreements could be felt. On 1st August 1976 the Championship race was held in Germany, at the Nürburgring. It was a head-to-head race between Lauda and Hunt. On the second lap Niki lost the control of his car, hit an embankment and rolled back into the path of another car. The impact was tremendous and Niki’s car burst into flames. He was trapped in the wreckage. His colleagues pulled him from his car and saved his life. Lauda returned to race only six weeks later and had completely changed. He was still leading the standings and stunned the press, the fans and also his Team. The Prancing Horse could still count on him.
The 1977 season didn’t start too well. At Buenos Aires Lauda’s single-seater, still the 312 T, was modified for the new season. Many victories followed and Lauda won the Championships due to his incredible consistency, bringing home also the third Constructors’ Title in a row for the Scuderia. Lauda had done it again, but due to the internal pressure at Ferrari he decided against a fourth year with the Scuderia. The breakup was final and for the following year Niki signed a contract with Brabham-Alfa Romeo. After the temporary retirement Lauda was back on the track, winning his third and last World Title in 1984 behind the wheel of a competitive car.