When McLaren paid $3 million to Niki Lauda to bring him out of F1 retirement
Three-time World Champion Niki Lauda retired from F1 in 1979 but was tempted to return after McLaren offered him a $3 million salary.
Lauda spent four seasons of his F1 career with Ferrari and won two World Titles. However, his decision to withdraw from the 1976 season finale which handed that year’s Championship to McLaren rival James Hunt did not sit well with the Ferrari management.
His relationship with Ferrari deteriorated in his final year. The Austrian comfortably won the 1977 Championship but left them from Brabham the following year, bringing an end to his time in Maranello. His two years with Brabham were very forgettable and that pushed him toward deciding to retire after the end of the 1979 campaign.
Lauda returned to Austria, where he decided to work more on his own airline which he had founded, Lauda Air. However, when then-McLaren boss Ron Dennis approached him with an offer two years later, he could not refuse a return to F1.
Niki Lauda repaid McLaren’s $3 million investment in him
Dennis wanted Lauda to join McLaren in 1982, but the Vienna-born driver was not easy to negotiate with. According to BBC, the McLaren boss offered Lauda a salary of $3 million which would make him the highest paid driver at the time.
This offer was too sweet for the former Ferrari driver to refuse, and he returned to F1 in 1982. In just his third race back, he proved to everyone that he still had what it took to win races after finishing P1 in Long Beach. The following year, McLaren did not have a race winning car so his best result was a P2 finish.
Remembering the legendary Niki Lauda, who was born #OnThisDay in 1949.
A giant of our team and of our sport, who we miss greatly. 🇦🇹🧡 pic.twitter.com/v9wicq0aFh
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) February 22, 2021
In 1984, however, he finally won his third World Title. His teammate that year was none other than the legendary Alain Prost. Prost won more races than Lauda that season, but due to the Frenchman’s reliability issues, he was able to out score his teammate by half a point. This remains the closest ever margin by which a driver has won a Championship till date date.
It’s fair to say that by winning the 1984 Title, Lauda repaid the faith shown in him by Dennis. After spending another year with the Woking-based outfit, he decided to retire once again, this time for good.