Niki Lauda’s comeback win at the US Grand Prix in 1982 is a day to remember in F1 history.
When looking down F1’s memory lane, one cannot look past Niki Lauda. Lauda was a three-time F1 World Driver’s Champion and one of the greatest in history. He won his first two championships in 1975 and 1977. His third championship victory in 1984 came after coming back from retirement.
However, despite being a double World Champion, things were not so easy for Lauda when he came back from retirement. He replaced talented youngster, Andrea de Cesaris, at McLaren, and had to prove that he was still worth his legendary status.
- Andrea de Cesaris’ Recklessness made Niki Lauda’s Comeback Relatively Easier.
- Lauda Announced his Comeback with Victory at the US Grand Prix.
Niki Lauda Needs to beat Former McLaren Driver Andrea de Cesaris to Prove his Worth
Andrea de Cesaris had earned a bad reputation for his reckless driving, as it resulted in several accidents in his first season with McLaren. As a result, McLaren ran out of patience with De Cesaris. They needed a replacement and there came Niki Lauda back from retirement.
Consequently, De Cesaris was left with a point to prove as he faced the axe at McLaren. However, since he still had Marlboro’s support, the owner of McLaren and Alfa Romeo, De Cesaris moved to Alfa Romeo.
To everyone’s surprise, De Cesaris earned pole at the US Grand Prix when he beat Niki Lauda by the closest of margins.
Knowing that he had a strong competitor, Lauda knew that he had to prove his mettle in the race. However, he also knew that he could not get too excited on the first lap considering De Cesaris’ bad reputation of first lap incidents.
Hence, Lauda moved cautiously during the first lap, also losing a position to Rene Arnoux. However, with all the experience, Lauda was confident that he would have an opportunity to come back.
Lauda US Grand Prix Comeback Victory
Although De Cesaris seemed calm and composed, for the most part, Lauda knew that increasing pressure on De Cesaris would cause De Cesaris to make a mistake.
Increasing traffic concerns made it difficult for De Cesaris to open the gap and Lauda was successfully able to close in. As a result, De Cesaris became more and more furious.
De Cesaris was furious as Raul Boesel made the pass difficult despite being lapped. After successfully passing Boesel, instead of focusing on the race, De Cesaris made a fatal mistake.
Instead of changing gears, De Cesaris shook his fist, an incident also recalled by Niki Lauda in his autobiography, “To Hell and Back.” Lauda said,
“De Cesaris overtakes the slower car and shakes his fist at the driver. I see him raise his hand in a threatening gesture and I say to myself: he should be changing gear now.”
That was more than enough for Lauda to make De Cesaris pay as he passed him to earn his first comeback victory. Considering the quickness of De Cesaris, one would have expected Lauda to have a much more difficult task.
However, De Cesaris’ failure to learn from past mistakes gave Lauda a relatively easy win, thereby proving that McLaren made the right decision to call back Lauda from retirement and replace De Cesaris.