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Niki Lauda Wins at the Osterreichring

In 1984, Niki Lauda had a new teammate at McLaren—Alain Prost—who left Renault in a huff after barely missing out on the 1983 world title when his turbo failed him in the season-ending race at Kyalami. Throughout 1984, Prost was going to fairly regularly outqualify and prove faster than Lauda during practice, but it would end for him on a similarly disappointing note with the closest F1 title finish since Hawthorn and Moss back in 1958. The final score in 1984 was Lauda 72 points, Prost 71.5 points! The Austrian Grand Prix was a typical example of what happened between the McLaren teammates that year. Prost started on the front row alongside Piquet while Lauda, on Row 2, dropped back several places at the start. Lauda then bravely fought back to re-take position behind the leaders. Struggling with his gearbox, Prost committed an error on Lap 28 and spun out of the race in frustration. Lauda now began an incredibly patient stalking of Piquet—passing him for 1st place only 10 laps before the finish in front of a wildly cheering home crowd. In so doing, Niki also took the championship points lead.

The Osterreichring was a tremendous circuit and in this painting, one can feel the vastness of the place, which I believe is reflected by the small size of Lauda’s car against the curving and undulating gray ribbon of road that is the track and the distant backdrop of darkness represented by the forest’s edge. It is also a statement against the unfortunate current trend in F1 today of moving toward small, flat, featureless, constant-radius curve circuits. In 1984, the almost 1,000 bhp turbocharged F1 racers lapped the Osterreichring at over 230 km/h! Although the Osterreichring was, sadly, emasculated to create the A1 Ring, this circuit was still better than most in current use but it too is now being dropped from the F1 calendar.

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