SportF1Niki Lauda's accident at the Nürburgring that changed his...

Niki Lauda's accident at the Nürburgring that changed his life

The 1976 world championship reached its climax on August 1, when the German Grand Prix was held at the old Nurburgring circuit, the Nordschleife. In a circuit of 22 km in length, the last race in the nicknamed “Green Hell” was forever etched in the history of the category.

Two drivers were locked in the fight for that title. Niki Lauda was leading the championship with 58 points, and James Hunt, with 35, was in second position. After a good start to the season, the Austrian Ferrari driver felt the pressure from the McLaren driver mounting.

The rain made an appearance before the starting gun, and the race in Germany was compromised. The tension could be cut with a knife and all the drivers decided to start the test on wet tyres, except for Jochen Mass , James Hunt ‘s team-mate at McLaren.

Niki Lauda’s accident on the Nordschleife

As most of the 22km circuit was dry after completing the first lap, all the drivers decided to go through the pitlane. Niki Lauda was far behind and after his stop to fit the slicks, he started to put in hellish pace on lap two.

But after going through the Bergwerk corner, the Ferrari 312T2 ‘s suspension broke, pushing Lauda to the right side and he hit the guards. The car returned to the track engulfed in flames and was run over by the German Harald Ertl and the American Brett Lunger . The driver Arturo Merzario tried to help the Austrian to get him out of the car, in a scene that filled those who witnessed it live with anguish.

After medical teams extracted him from the car, Lauda was airlifted to hospital with severe burns.

Trapped in the car, Lauda inhaled toxic fumes and suffered contusions to his chest, as well as severe burns to his head. Lauda lost his right ear and his eyelashes and eyebrows had been completely burned. At the hospital, doctors induced a coma as a precaution. The Austrian went into surgery at great risk of losing his life, but just six weeks later, he returned to the circuits to return for the title at the Italian Grand Prix, where he finished fourth.

James Hunt won the German Grand Prix, and the Nurburgring would only be used again in F1 with the shorter layout, established in 1984.

Lost title for Niki Lauda in 76

Lauda participated in the three races prior to the title decision. The key event took place in Fuji, Japan, in heavy rain. The Austrian refused to go out on track due to the risk of major accidents due to the weather, and Hunt took third place, just enough to take the title. The Ferrari driver lost the world championship by a single point, 68, compared to the 69 that gave the Briton his only crown.

Niki Lauda, Ferrari 312T2 on fire after crash near Bergwerk corner

Niki Lauda, Ferrari 312T2 en llamas tras estrellarse cerca de la curva de Bergwerk

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Photo by: Uncredited

Niki LaudaFerrari

Niki Lauda, Ferrari

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Photo by: LAT Images

Niki Lauda, Ferrari 312T2

Niki Lauda, Ferrari 312T2

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Photo by: LAT Images

Niki Lauda, Ferrari 312T2

Niki Lauda, Ferrari 312T2

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Photo By: Sutton Motorsport Images

Niki Lauda, Ferrari 312T2, Guy Edwards, Hesketh 308D-Ford, Brett Lunger, Surtees TS19-Ford, y Harald Ertl, Hesketh-Ford 308D

Niki Lauda, Ferrari 312T2, Guy Edwards, Hesketh 308D-Ford, Brett Lunger, Surtees TS19-Ford, y Harald Ertl, Hesketh-Ford 308D

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Foto de: LAT Images

Niki Lauda accident, Ferrari 312T2

Accidente de Niki Lauda, Ferrari 312T2

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Photo by: LAT Images

Niki Lauda’s burned out helmet, Ferrari

El casco quemado de Niki Lauda, ​​Ferrari

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Photo by: LAT Images

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