We will all miss Niki Lauda, a man whose fame went so far beyond the confines of a Grand Prix paddock.
One of the true heroes of the sport, he will always be revered by those who witnessed the extraordinary drama that unfolded during his battle with James Hunt for the 1976 World Championship. His recovery from that dreadful accident at the Nürburgring made headlines around the world, his comeback at Monza a unique achievement in the history of Grand Prix racing.
There was, however, so much more to this man than his bravery and courage in adversity. Most of all we will miss his mischievous sense of humour, the brutal honesty and plain speaking that marked him out from so many in Formula 1. With Niki it was always black and white, no dodging of bullets.
As a driver he was quite simply one of the very best, a pure natural talent supported by a huge capacity for hard work and attention to every detail. Sheer graft and audacious deals took him to Formula 1 and, once there, the talent and fighting spirit won him three World Championships. In between his second and third titles, remember, he abruptly walked away from the sport at the Canadian GP in 1979 and started an airline. “I don't want to drive round in circles anymore," he told Brabham team boss Bernie Ecclestone. Vintage Niki. But then, typically, he came back, to McLaren, in 1982, and won his third title with them two years later.
Niki was always top of our 'wish list' of drivers for the Festival of Speed and persuading him to come was not the work of a moment. We were all delighted that he was with us in 2017 for our tribute to Ecclestone. He flew himself here, did all the things we asked of him, and flew home. Job done. And now he has gone. We have lost a genuine legend of our sport who will be greatly missed, not only by us the fans, but also by the Mercedes AMG team where he was a guiding light and source of sheer common sense.
Goodwood would like to extend our deepest sympathies to all who knew and loved Niki. The word legend if often overused, but Niki really was a legend of our sport. He will be greatly missed.
Photography courtesy of Steve Havelock, Paul Melbert and Motorsport Images.