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?'”