On Niki Lauda’s third death anniversary, we take a look back at his miraculous survival in Germany
Niki Lauda was the victim of one of the worst crashes in F1 history when his Ferrari caught fire at Nürburgring in 1976. The 1976 German Grand Prix was perhaps one of the most infamous races of all time. The Nürburgring circuit had a poor reputation in terms of safety and a lot of drivers never liked racing there
One day before the race in 1976, Lauda, who was driving for Ferrari at the time, urged his fellow drivers to boycott the race. However, the majority of the drivers voted for the GP to go ahead and so it did.
During the second lap of the German GP, Lauda’s Ferrari swerved off track, hit an embankment and burst into flames. He remained trapped in his car surrounded by a burning inferno and wasn’t able to get out. Several drivers who were passing by stooped to help Lauda, but it was Arturo Merzario who was able to pull him out.
Merzario was driving for Wolff at the time. He saw Lauda trapped in his burning Ferrari chassis and rushed for help. By the time the Austrian was pulled out of his car, he suffered severe burns to his head and inhaled a large quantity of toxic gasses, which damaged his lungs. In spite of suffering serious injuries and slipping into a coma shortly after his crash, Lauda survived and missed only the next two races.
Nikki Lauda gifted his gold Rolex watch to Arturo Merzario as a token of gratitude
Nikki Lauda would quite possibly have lost his life without Merzario’s heroics. His heroic actions were never forgotten by the 3-time World Champion, who remained grateful towards the Italian for the rest of his life.
“There was a guy called Arturo Merzario who jumped into the fire and alone pulled me out of the wreckage. So I survived. So he really saved my life there because a couple of seconds more I would have never made it.” the late Niki Lauda said.
At the 1976 Monaco GP, Lauda gifted Merzario a brand new gold Rolex watch. He won it after getting pole position, but decided to give it to Merzario out of gratitude for saving his life in Germany.
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