De Villota: "Lauda was distant, introverted and with character"

Emilio, a Spanish driver who coincided with the Austrian in F1, remembers Niki for As: "He was the pilot of his generation with the most sensitivity towards safety".

Emilio de Villota, Spanish driver of Formula 1, participated in 14 World Cup prizes between 1976 and 1978, although he could only qualify for two races: the Spanish Grand Prix of 1977 and the Austrian Grand Prix of the same year. De Villota coincided on the track with Niki Lauda and thus reminds him to As:

-You who met him on the circuits, how do you remember the pilot Niki Lauda?

-Lauda was an extremely competitive person, was very calculating. But perhaps the true inheritance that left us as such was, without a doubt, the episode that we lived after his accident at the Nurburgring. Niki entered the hospital with extremely serious injuries, after receiving extreme unction. Nobody expected his return to the circuits, much less just six weeks after the accident. And he returned in the Italian Grand Prix finishing in fourth position to the amazement of all.

-Leaving aside his facet as a pilot, how was he as a person?

-Niki was introverted, distant and had a lot of character. He always gave his opinions even if they were not politically correct.

-What anecdotes do you remember about the time that coincided with him on the track?

-I remember one during the practice of the Italian Grand Prix of 1977 in the variant of Ascari. He tried to overtake me and I did not notice his position and I took him to the grass. When he later overtook me, he did not even move his head and even less made any reproach with gestures, he was already focused on the parabolic that came next. He was only interested in the future. The past was archived.

-Did you notice any change in him after the accident?

-I think he increased his character as introverted and calculating. After his accident he won two world championships in difficult physical conditions. His last World Cup was won by Prost by only half a point.

-How do you think he improved the safety of the circuits following that accident?

-I believe that Lauda was the pilot of his generation, together with Fittipaldi, with more sensitivity towards security. I coincided with him, among others, in a race at Silverstone and due to the conditions of the track, with extreme rain, he decided not to run. That race was only finished by four cars for track exits, so it seems that he was quite right not to race. Something similar happened in the GP of Japan in which he left in the middle of the test for the conditions of difficulty for rain, despite playing the World Cup in that last test. This meant losing the title in favor of James Hunt.

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