The 1985 season was
one to forget for Niki
Lauda. The defending
champ suffered no
less than 11 DNFs and
missed two races due
to an injured wrist.
He finished only three
races, taking 10th in
Sole high for Lauda
was his 25th and final
Grand Prix win, beating
his teammate and
Prost, by 0.232 sec in
the Dutch GP (ABOVE).
retirement at Monza,
Lauda swapped red
helmet for red cap for
good at season’s end.
hen Lewis Hamilton took the
checkered flag at this year’s United States
Grand Prix, he joined only nine other drivers
who’ve won at least three Formula 1 World
Championships – one of whom happens
to be a boss of his at Mercedes F1, nonexecutive chairman Niki Lauda. But in
contrast to Hamilton’s canter to the crown,
Lauda’s third title was a close-run thing.
In 1984, the two-time champ from
Austria was to begin his third season with
McLaren since returning to the sport after
a brief retirement in ’ 79. So far, he’d had a
good measure of his teammate, John
Watson, but the Englishman was replaced
by French hotshot Alain Prost for ’ 84.
With nine GP wins already under his belt,
Prost was F1’s fastest-rising star and had
narrowly missed out on the ’ 83 title to
Brabham’s Nelson Piquet. When he publicly
blamed Renault for the loss, he was fired
and on the driver market. Enter McLaren
boss Ron Dennis, who eagerly snatched up
Prost to partner the canny, experienced
(and somewhat nonplussed) Lauda.
Out of the box, McLaren’s TAG-Porsche-
powered MP4/2 was quick, winning the
season-opener with Prost. In contrast,
Lauda retired with an electrical issue,
setting a tone for the first half of the year.
After nine of 16 races, Prost had
scored three wins and two other podiums
to eke out a sizeable points lead. Lauda,
meanwhile, had two wins, but six DNFs.
The second of Prost’s wins came in
Monaco, where the race was stopped
before half-distance due to torrential rain.
Because of that, he only earned half points,
meaning 4. 5 instead of the usual nine.
The ultimate significance of that would
only become clear at season’s end.
At round 10, the British GP, momentum
began to shift. Lauda won, cutting back a
non-finishing Prost’s lead. In the next four
races, both won twice, but Lauda backed his
up with two seconds as Prost took a pair of
DNFs. It was game on with two races to go...
Prost won the penultimate GP, with
Lauda struggling home fourth to cling on
to a three-and-a-half point advantage
heading in to the Portuguese finale.
Starting second, Prost went on to win
comfortably. Lauda qualified a lowly 11th,
but worked his up to second at the finish.
It was enough to win the title by a half
point – the smallest margin in F1 history.
Largely outperformed by Lotus’s ground-effect
78 in 1977, Lauda earned his second F1 title by
consistency – three victories and six seconds.
McLaren boss Ron
Dennis (MAIN, right)
leapt at the chance to
sign Alain Prost for
the 1984 Formula 1
season. It was a
move that didn’t go
down massively well
with de facto team
leader Niki Lauda
(left). But after a
trying season, the
Austrian took a third
championship by the
narrowest of margins.
Lauda welcomes Mercedes F1 driver Lewis
Hamilton to the three-time champions’ club.
Unlike his boss, Lewis is far from done yet...
WHO LEWIS HAMILTON’S BOSS, NIkI LAudA
WHAT THE FORMuLA 1 WORLd cHAMpIONSHIp