Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda has likened the difference in personality between himself and James Hunt with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
Lauda and Hunt were immortalised in the movie Rush, which was about the epic 1976 Formula 1 World Championship season in which the flambouyant, party animal Hunt triumphed over the conservative, clean living Lauda.
The three-times world champion told Press Association, “It is like Hamilton and Rosberg today. One lives one kind of life, and the other lives a different lifestyle. It was a similar situation between James and me.”
“I was trying to concentrate, focus and work on my car, and get everything right. He had an easy life and got it right in another way. He was a straightforward, eccentric, and a weird guy, but very good for Formula One.”
Lauda was involved in a fiery accident that season at the treacherous Nurburgring Nordschleife, he survived despite being administered the last rights on his hospital bed.
He missed two races after his crash and returned to the cockpit heavily bandaged but in the end Hunt did enough to win the title at the final race in Japan that year.
Lauda recalled, “I have to say that when he won the championship, I said to myself, the only one who deserves it is him. With his ups and downs, and drinking, and the way he lived Formula One, I was really happy it was him, and I told him that.”
Years later Lauda and Hunt met again, “He was having a rough time. He called me, and I went to meet him on King’s Road in London.”
“He came out on a bicycle which had no air in the rear tyre, and he was completely finished. I spoke to him for a long time and I said ‘if you keep on going like this you will end up in a disaster’. I leant him some money, and really backed him to get his act together again.
“Three years before his death he was completely sober, fit like a whistle, and all the partying, the drugs, and the rock and roll lifestyle was gone. He was safe in his life, so it surprised me and hit me really hard when the guy passed away. I was really sad.”
Lauda’s take on Rush, produced by Ron Howard and released in 2013 is: “The reaction was very good for a racing movie. Eighty percent from my point of view is right, and 20 percent is Hollywood. The movie I really liked and the reaction around the world was unbelievable.”