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When a ‘bouncer’ rattled Niki Lauda

In his trademark red cap, which he wore ever since the 1976 German Grand Prix accident at Nurburgring to hide the scars he sustained, Niki Lauda compared Vettel with the likes of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

other sports Updated: May 21, 2019 23:34 IST
Sandip Sikdar
Sandip Sikdar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Niki Lauda,Formula One,Niki Lauda Formula One
Former Formula One Champion Niki Lauda is pictured ahead of the British Formula One Grand Prix.(AFP)

Six years ago, this correspondent had the opportunity of interviewing the great Niki Lauda, who passed away early Tuesday, at the final Indian Grand Prix.

Standing under the October sun in the Buddh International Circuit paddock at Greater Noida, the Austrian asked, “Can we stand under the shade there?” pointing towards the motor home of Mercedes, where he was the non-executive chairman.

Known for his straightforwardness, the three-time F1 world champion asked: “I hope this will be short, right?” He eventually ended up spending more than half an hour discussing his disappointment of the discontinuation of the Indian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel’s title-winning run in F1 and the 2013 biographical movie Rush.

In his trademark red cap, which he wore ever since the 1976 German Grand Prix accident at Nurburgring to hide the scars he sustained, he compared Vettel with the likes of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. “I think he (Vettel) is going to become world champion for the fourth successive year here tomorrow,” Lauda had said. Just as he had predicted, the German, who was then with Red Bull, won the crown the next day.

Released a month back, Lauda also loved Rush, the Chris Helmsworth and Daniel Bruhl starrer based on his rivalry with 1976 world champion James Hunt. “More than 80 percent of the movie is real,” he said.

Shortly before our conversation, Lauda had also spoken to other media when a TV reporter made a gaffe. The journalist, at the conclusion of the interaction, asked him, “So Niki, you’re an Australian. What do you have to say about Sachin Tendulkar?”

A no-nonsense guy, Lauda is also known for being curt enough to embarrass people. Amused and perhaps in a better mood that day, he politely replied: “I am an Austrian”, before walking away.

Asked by this correspondent if he was angry with the reporter, he said, “No. He probably recognised my face and searched me on the internet at the last minute.”

First Published: May 21, 2019 23:34 IST