mobile app bar

“Niki Lauda paid a sum of $100,000 dollars to land himself an F1 seat”- The Austrian Ferrari legend had to pay huge money to get into Formula 1

Somin Bhattacharjee

"Niki Lauda paid a sum of $100,000 dollars to land himself an F1 seat"- The Austrian Ferrari legend had to pay huge money to get into Formula 1

Niki Lauda is one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all time having one three World Titles during his time in the sport. 

The term ‘pay driver’ has become common to describe drivers who pay a large amount of money to get into F1. The likes of Nicholas Latifi, Lance Stroll and Nikita Mazepin all got a lot of stick for being a part of that group. However, a big reason behind that was their lack of good performances that could justify their stay in the sport.

Money has always been a necessity for drivers to get into F1. The most famous and unique ‘pay driver’ in the sport’s history has to be Niki Lauda. The Austrian didn’t just pay his way into F1, he risked absolutely everything to realize his dream.

Lauda was born into a very wealthy Austrian family, but his father and grandfather were firmly against his dream of racing. Lauda wanted to get into Formula 2 in 1971 and March’s seat was available to the highest bidder.

He managed to play a smart move, which allowed him to sign with the team before even getting the money together. The cost for this drive was north of $40,000 dollars which in the 1970s was a huge deal!

Also read: From Lewis Hamilton to Mick Schumacher – Here are the F1 drivers ranked by their 2021 season’s damage cost

Niki Lauda had his bank loan rejected after his grandfather threatened them

Lauda managed to muster the financial support he needed to pave his way into the sport. He took a loan from a bank Erste österreichische (one of the country’s leading banks). They were happy with the exposure they were getting thanks to Lauda, and went ahead with the partnership.

This allowed him to have a combined F1 and F2 season with March in 1972. However, problems were to arise for the Vienna born driver after the team’s disastrous 1972 season. He simply couldn’t stay in a team that wasn’t getting him anywhere, so he wanted to take another loan to get himself into a better seat.

Lauda and Erste came to an agreement of $120,000 dollars for the next season, but this loan soon got cancelled. Lauda’s grandfather, called up the bank and got them to withdraw this deal. This put a huge dent in his F1 dreams momentarily but Lauda did not give up.

Also read: “Michael Schumacher keeps a $5 million Ferrari FXX in his garage”- Seven-time World Champion stores collection of some of the best F1 and supercars around

Lauda’s second loan which got him into BRM and then Ferrari

After his deal with the Erste group fell out, Lauda contacted the Raiffeisenkasse bank to pen another deal with them. Lauda need some convincing this time, but he managed to get a loan from them in exchange of him using the company’s branding on the car and his helmet.

This loan amounted to a sum of $100,000 and allowed him to get a seat at BRM. However, he had to tell the BRM hierarchy that the bank would take care of all his payments which wasn’t true.

He gambled upon the fact that by the time he would have to repay the loan, he would already be a star. His luck played out this time, and his stunning performance at the 1973 Monaco GP caught the eye of many.

His teammate at BRM that season was Clay Regazzoni, and the Swiss drive rejoined Ferrari the year later. However, Lauda’s pace was so eye catching that Regazzoni insisted to Enzo Ferrari that he was the man they had to sign.

Lauda joined Ferrari in 1974 and went on to win two World Championships with them in 1975 and 1977. He retired from the sport in 1979 but came out of it to win yet another World Championship. This time he won it with McLaren in 1984.

It’s tough to imagine how the sport’s history would shape up had Lauda not risked it all to realize his dream!

About the author

Somin Bhattacharjee

Somin Bhattacharjee


Somin Bhattacharjee is an F1 editor at The SportsRush and has written more than 2000 articles. He holds a bachelor's degree in business administration and considers sports to be a part of his life. Somin has been a fan of Scuderia Ferrari since 2010 and his favorite driver is none another than the legendary Fernando Alonso. Other than longing for a Ferrari Championship win once again, Somin spends his free time playing football and basketball.

Read more from Somin Bhattacharjee

Share this article