Practice report from the German Grand Prix.
I drafted an obituary that night. Anybody who knew his injuries were sure he could not survive. Guy Edwards’s bravery pulling him from the burning Ferrari was recognised with a Queen’s Gallantry Medal. Later Guardian features on his team’s verdict after he lost the world championship to James Hunt, taken up in the Italian press, resulted in a lively correspondence I had with Enzo Ferrari. I framed his letters. I can now do a new obituary.
I never grew close to Niki Lauda even during his BRM days. You couldn’t say he warmed to journalists. I certainly recognised his ability and ambition but in the years I covered Formula 1 he kept his distance and I kept mine. It was much later before his real talent for forthright honesty emerged. You could then recognise the courage he had displayed following the accident about which he had been so prescient. We had become all too conscious of how dangerous motor racing was following Jim Clark’s death. The Guardian, to its credit, encouraged me to report on safety in the sport. Some contemporaries, like Denis Jenkinson of Motor Sport were unsympathetic. They thought danger inherent in motor racing, and it was somehow ungallant to campaign against it. Lauda’s bravery never faded. He took on Boeing after the fatal crash of one of his aircraft. It never faded to the end of his life when his lungs, seared from the flames of his Ferrari, needed replacing.