F1 great Niki Lauda fumes over magazine’s satire of Michael Schumacher’s condition


If it was going for laughs, a German satire magazine has failed miserably, drawing the ire of both three-time Formula One champion Niki Lauda and fans of seriously injured seven-time F1 champ Michael Schumacher.

The latest edition of Germany’s Titanic magazine – comparable to The Onion in the U.S. – came out earlier this week with a photo of Lauda on the cover and the headline “‘Exclusive – First Photo After The Accident – This is how badly it affected Schumi”, referring to Schumacher, who was nearly killed in a skiing accident in the French Alps on Dec. 29.

In pursuit of a second consecutive F1 championship at the time, Lauda suffered serious burns and permanent disfigurement after being burned in a crash in 1976 at Nürburgring. That crash was a key component of last summer’s movie “Rush.” The Titanic cover pictured Lauda as he looks today, nearly 40 years after his own near-fatal mishap.

“The cover is totally audacious, absolutely intolerable and completely irreverent. Who prints such nonsense?” Lauda said of his disgust at the Titanic cover to the newspaper Heute in his native Austria.

In the same edition, Titanic also published a “guide” for parents to explain Schumacher’s accident and injuries to their children “with fun and games,” and also contains a puzzle with Schumacher in a helmet and a labyrinth where taking the wrong turn down a mountain will put the player in a hospital.

Schumacher remains in a medically induced coma, although doctors last week began slowly weaning him of the anesthetic that has kept him in the coma.

When told of Lauda’s criticism of the magazine cover, Tim Wolff, editor of Titanic, responded by saying, “The criticism of Mr. Lauda concerns us.”

But instead of leaving well enough alone, Titanic pushed the envelope even further, drawing even greater criticism and rebuke when it subsequently published an “apology” about the magazine cover and its contents.

“We understand the concern but we want to assure our fans that we sent an investigative reporter dressed as a nurse into the clinic in Grenoble,” read a press release containing the so-called apology. “If we have made a tragic mix up with another prominent F1 driver that may have been involved in a crash – then we regret it, at least a little bit!”

Lauda still isn’t laughing. He’s reportedly considering legal action against the magazine, according to the Austrian Independent.

“It is an absolute barefaced cheek and is completely impious,” Lauda said. “I ask myself, ‘Who would print such a load of rubbish?'”

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
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Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.