Marko: F1's exceptional Niki Lauda was 'constant companion' to me

Helmut Marko says the death of his "constant companion" three-time Formula 1 champion Niki Lauda is made "all the more painful" by their close friendship

Marko: F1's exceptional Niki Lauda was 'constant companion' to me

Lauda, who was Mercedes' non-executive chairman, passed away on Monday night aged 70, after battling health issues for almost a year.

Red Bull motorsport advisor Marko says he first met his fellow Austrian "around 1968" and the two followed each closely through their racing careers and later when they moved into non-driving roles.

"I knew he was not in a good condition, but still, when the news comes, it's a blow," Marko told Austrian TV channel oe24.TV in a telephone interview.

"Throughout my racing career, Niki was my constant companion. Both on the driving side and in management.

"There have been so many experiences, so many shared actions and shared funny events. And then this.

"That's just hard. There is no one in the whole Formula 1 scene who can even get close to him in terms of personality, humour and straightforwardness."

Marko said he had visited Lauda in hospital in Vienna last year, and admitted he was "horrified" when he saw him but recognised the ex-Ferrari and McLaren driver was "still full of optimism and there was still power in his voice".

He said that he and Lauda spent time together following the death of Jochen Rindt, the posthumous 1970 world champion, even though "there was a fight to be his successor".

The heroism, horror and hurt of Lauda at Ferrari

Marko claimed he had a preliminary contract with Ferrari before his F1 career was ended prematurely when a stone pierced his helmet while driving for BRM in the 1972 French Grand Prix and permanently blinded his left eye.

He said that indirectly led to him helping Lauda negotiate his own deal to move to Ferrari, where he won two world titles.

Marko said: "He first took over the BRM cockpit and then the Ferrari seat. We drove to Modena together, he asked me to accompany him to negotiate his first contract with Enzo.

"I thought to myself, 'Niki will inherit all this, is that fair?' But on closer analysis, I was out anyway, and then I much prefer it is an Austrian who gets into all this than anyone else.

"There's no trace of bitterness or envy. Perhaps at the beginning, but from the logic, I realised 'I can't change it anyway, and then it's better, it's Niki'.

"From then on we were always in contact in some way." Marko hailed Lauda's conduct away from F1, highlighting his behaviour in the aftermath of the fatal crash his airline suffered in Thailand in 1991.

He hailed Lauda's "meticulousness and stubbornness" - which Marko said was "typical of him" - and how he "proved to a global corporation like Boeing that it was not his fault, or that of the pilots, but that it was a design flaw".

Marko said that when Lauda was still attending grands prix last year before falling ill "we had breakfast together at every grand prix".

"We looked outside the box, beyond the small-minded," said Marko. "The most important thing for us was always the attractiveness of the sport."

Marko described Lauda as a "real family man", "one of the great Austrians" and a "good, generous person".

Asked if they were true friends, Marko said: "Yes. You could say so. It is all the more painful now."

shares
comments
New Rio track layout revealed but no F1 race to be held before 2021

Previous article

New Rio track layout revealed but no F1 race to be held before 2021

Next article

Ferrari "evaluating new concepts" for its 2019 car after F1 review

Ferrari "evaluating new concepts" for its 2019 car after F1 review
Load comments
How the pandemic is continuing to bite F1 Plus

How the pandemic is continuing to bite F1

Uncertainty over the shape of the calendar doesn’t just vex the fans and the commercial rights holder. MARK GALLAGHER explains at how race promoters have been pushed to the financial brink

Hamilton at 100 wins: In his adversaries’ words Plus

Hamilton at 100 wins: In his adversaries’ words

Some 18 drivers have finished runner-up to Lewis Hamilton on his way to 100 wins. Three of those recall their battles with Formula 1’s centurion and give their personal insights into the seven-time world champion on his rise to unchartered territory

Russian Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Russian Grand Prix Driver Ratings

The 2021 Russian GP was decided by late-arriving rain that allowed some to climb and caused others to plummet. But the events which played out beforehand are equally significant when considering the all-important driver ratings

How Mercedes made the “blind faith” call that won Hamilton his 100 milestone at Sochi Plus

How Mercedes made the “blind faith” call that won Hamilton his 100 milestone at Sochi

Until rain turned the Russian Grand Prix on its head in the closing stages, Lando Norris was set to convert his first Formula 1 pole position into a maiden win. But having recovered well from being shuffled back at the start, Hamilton and his Mercedes team called the changing conditions spot-on for a landmark 100th F1 victory

Formula 1
Sep 27, 2021
Why momentum is again behind Australia’s aces Plus

Why momentum is again behind Australia’s aces

At the Italian Grand Prix Daniel Ricciardo turned around a troubled F1 season and, in F2, Oscar Piastri demonstrated once again that he is a potential star of the future. BEN EDWARDS weighs up the prospects of F1 having two Australian stars

Formula 1
Sep 26, 2021
The tough balancing act facing Schumacher’s Netflix film producers Plus

The tough balancing act facing Schumacher’s Netflix film producers

Michael Schumacher is the latest sporting superstar to get the ‘Netflix treatment’, with a special documentary film airing on the US streaming giant’s platform this month. DAMIEN SMITH has the inside track on how the filmmakers gained access to tell the human story behind one of Formula 1’s most publicity-shy champions - while the man himself, for obvious reasons, is in absentia… 

Formula 1
Sep 25, 2021
The times that suggest Verstappen should be confident of F1 Russian GP recovery Plus

The times that suggest Verstappen should be confident of F1 Russian GP recovery

For the second race in a row, Mercedes has ended the first day of track action on top. It’s in a commanding position at the Russian Grand Prix once again – this time largely thanks to Max Verstappen’s upcoming engine-change grid penalty. But there’s plenty to suggest all hope is not lost for the championship leader at Sochi

Formula 1
Sep 24, 2021
The ‘backwards step’ that is the right move for Formula 1 Plus

The ‘backwards step’ that is the right move for Formula 1

OPINION: With its days apparently numbered, the MGU-H looks set to be dropped from Formula 1’s future engine rules in order to entice new manufacturers in. While it may appear a change of direction, the benefits for teams and fans could make the decision a worthwhile call

Formula 1
Sep 23, 2021