Sympathy for the devil. About Niki Lauda

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“The more politely you treat the monster, the faster you will reach your destination”. That was the law of Niki Lauda. And this article is his own inheritance to us

He was in an interview before the Grand Prix of ’84, in Portugal. » The secret is to win by going as slowly as possible,» he said, launching a philosophical aura in the press room atmosphere.

Do you win by going as slowly as possible? How is it, I wondered. When I read this, I thought I heard a Buddhist monk mantra living in the trance of nirvana. Somewhere in Tibet.

However, certainly not someone who had a burned face in August ’76, an ear less, no lashes and toxic gases in hislungs after the accident at Nuerburgring. Yes, it was a loud bang.

Automatically, like shots of a trailer, postpuberty car spins, cannibalistic drops on a chassis that squeaked at every freeing of the clutch, screaming tires and other “psycho” states.

I had no idea of the great Law of Entropy: the degeneration of energy permeates everything. From ice cubes that slowly melt in the glass, to the universe. It was a German mathematician, Rudolf Clausius, who took the Greek words »en» & »tropi» and made a new concept, » entropy » as opposed to » energy », wanting to depict the degeneration of energy.

A Formula One car is also a mechanical system that moves to entropy. And as a result, the more politely you are, the more progressive the way you handle it, the more prolong your energy. This is what Lauda meant.

And in the years when Schumacher was with Alboretto in Ferrari, some said they did not really have a difference in speed. Only the first took the checkered flag and the second went to the garage.

Drivers pushing a car and its mechanical parts to its limits, not understanding entropy, were found dead or lost. Or early in their home, which is not that bad.

For example, Eugenio Castellotti was pushing over the limits of entropy and quickly found himself near God, Rosberg was spectacular, but if his cars had a voice, they would curse on him.

And while Mansell might be careless even with a pistol on the throat or, as some say, was just as fast as Senna, but apparently he did not have the Brazilian divine touch that could hold in its limits even the vulnerable Lotus of his early years, reducing as much as possible the wear and tear.

Respectively, at the level of all of us mortals, it requires a mental and rigorous maturity to drive fast without resorting to cannibalism. Hence I never understood city hooligans. 

As I also write in the preface, on a track or street, «sympathy for the devil» is the road to driving excellence. And do not listen to Rolling Stones’ homonymous song.

The next time the petrolhead chav comes out of you, or even when you pull a large corner at the apex, remember this. Most Great -with a deliberate capital »G»- had developed such an approach.

Schumacher knew the second law of thermodynamics. Lauda also. Prost was almost «listening» to what was happening on the engine. Fangio, too.

It’s night. Two ice cubes with Jack in the glass. I heard the tiny tic – tics. It is the entropy that tends to melt them. Together a voice from the past – » Win by going as slowly as possible ». The art of keeping the car in balance of its parts against decay. Mystically. As a Buddhist monk. To you, Great Niki.

PS. Andreas Nikolaus «Niki» Lauda was an Austrian former racing driver and three-time Formula One champion (1975, 1977 and 1984). When he retired, he founded and managed two airlines (Lauda Air and Niki), and he has been the director of the Jaguar racing division in Formula One for two years.

In September 2012 he took up the position of non-executive chair of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 race division and contributed greatly to the transfer of former world champion Louis Hamilton to the team.

Niki Lauda died a few hours ago on a holiday in Ibiza. February 22, 1949 – May 21, 2019. In memoriam.

Photo: Ferrari

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