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

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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?'”

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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