Poll: Hunt Vs. Lauda

The 1976 Formula One World Championship was made of the sort of stuff that could never have even been imagined beforehand. It took nearly 40 years for Hollywood to catch on to this incredible story (and what a job Ron Howard did with Rush) of great rivals and sometimes-friends James Hunt and Niki Lauda.

In Hunt and Lauda, you had two marvellous characters – but also two approaches to motor racing that could not have been further apart. On one hand, you had James Hunt: the playboy and centre of the party but his raw and natural gift for driving a grand prix car quickly is still the stuff of legend today. It was often said that all he had to do was just show up, and that was more than enough to vanquish the opposition. For those rare times that he realised he actually had to drive, well, those were special times indeed. Then you had the clinical and dedicated Niki Lauda. Although not quite as highly strung as his Hollywood representation would have you believe, Lauda did prefer to isolate himself before races to study what lay before him. Even after his horrific accident at the Nürburgring during the middle of the ’76 season, Lauda went through excruciating procedures and physical therapy so he could get back into his Ferrari sooner rather than later.

So, for a moment let us pretend it’s the evening of the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix, the final race of the season. Lauda leads Hunt by a solitary championship point but who are you shouting for from the rain swept grandstands? The playboy or the professor?

Photo: Associated Press/Universal Pictures

Paddy McGrath
Twitter: @PaddyMcGrathSH
Instagram: speedhunters_paddy

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I vote Hunt for one reason only: he decided to live fully while in his racing career. He lived hard, died relatively young (age 45) and let a legacy that's still present today.

Also, R.I.P Maria De Villota.


Lauda for me. From what I saw from the movie, he really seemed to care about winning (not that Hunt didn't, but in a different way) and was more grounded in what could happen. And anyone that can come back from a crash like that and still be in the chase for the championship is amazing. Plus after the '76 season, Hunt really just kind of stopped racing because he already had his championship. Lauda went on to win two more for himself.


I was a Hunt fan back in the Hesketh days, and loved the Walter Wolf cars too. Never a fan of Lauda, but respect his talent and determination to overcome the injuries to become champion again. Still have not seen the movie (want to, but in a smaller SoCal city, it did not play long here) but going to check it out soon.


Voted for Hunt simply because he was the F1 badass.


rush > nothing to do with formula 1


The average Speedhunter probably wasn't even born when these guys were racing (myself included), and I have basically zero knowledge of Formula 1 prior to the Turbo Era, so I won't even pretend I knew who these guys were prior to this film (great film by the way).  Regardless of the sport, I'm usually more impressed by the quiet guys who work hard to get the job done (Jerry Rice) rather than the naturally gifted showoff (Terrell Owens).  So Lauda gets my vote for his dedication to his craft, even before I factor in the effort it must've taken for him to even get back in a car at all after his crash.


Simply P I like your post. I have to agree with you. I didn't exist back then, and I only know of the story because of the movie, so I choose not to vote because I honestly have no clue. I liked both of their depiction in the movie. Lauda was an ass, but became the fan hero after the fire. Through the fire and his amazing come back you were able to see the man behind the harsh edges. Hunt was fun and had a great view of F1. But like I said, those were the depictions. Never saw them race, so I have absolutely no say in this poll.


Lauda for being a badass


If i had to bet money I would put it on Lauda, but I would be rooting for Hunt


are we talking winning or just rooting? Im about to over-analyze this poll...
I think Hunt would've won the race had Lauda pressed on. Hunt, had pure talent, experience, and constantly pushes himself to the edge, and on the Jpn race, he also had caution. 
while Lauda (yes he was extremely talented as well) was always calculating, even if he pressed on, he'd always have it inside his mind that he should not have driven, and the ratio of danger would be overwhelming to him. Im not saying he'd definitely lose, but inside his mind, he's already lost. 
as for cheering.... yea I'd still cheer for Hunt


Was a great film, great story great acting Daniel Bruhl was a stand out!.... Let down by the overuse of brands hatch and Snetterton (and Cadwell in one instance) as virtually every other Grand Prix track bar the Nordschleife was a clearly one of the British tracks. I have never seen the main straight at Paul Ricard that bumpy and with such a long right bend in it ever before.... (Brands looking at you) also the race sequences were sketchy as, super shaky cam to indicate that doing 30mph is super fast, and jerky steering as seen of women applying makeup while driving.....
I think the fastest a car actually went in the film was when niki was driving the Alfa through the vineyards.
Overall though it's a must see.


gatoonik I don't think that's a fair statement. As far as Hollywood interpretations of actual events go, this pretty damn accurate. Fair enough, there were plenty of things that didn't make it in, but too much happened in 1976 to squeeze into two hours.


Wildcardfox  Simply P There's nothing stopping you both from researching the period though, right? I'm a child of the mid-eighties so can sort of relate to what you're saying. I spent a lot of time earlier this year reading books and looking at video from the period. I'd recommend In the Name of Glory by Tom Rubython as an easy to digest account of what happened.


Jezza k I agree with you regards the overuse of Brands Hatch et al. but I guess they were working with a restricted budget. 99% of cinema goers wouldn't notice the difference anyways and to their credit, they got a lot of small details right like the McLaren M23's large air box being removed due to a mid-season change in regulations.


@Hansel I'm not sure I agree 100% with that. The main reason Lauda retired was because his tear ducts and eyelids had been damaged from the crash at the Nürburgring. With the heavy rain at Fuji, it severely affected his vision to the point where he couldn't see and was forced to retire. Hunt absolutely had to finish at least third and in front of Lauda to be world champion, which he just about managed without having Lauda on track. If Lauda was still on the track? I think the outcome would have been different but we're dealing with 'what if' scenarios and we shouldn't go down that rabibit hole!


EricSeanDelaney I think the fact that you picked that up from the movie alone is a testament to Ron Howard's film making skills. Hunt was content to win his one world title where as Lauda's dedication saw him chase it down time and time again. I believe that Lauda told his then fiancé he would retire if he won his first world title, but once he achieved that, his hunger for more only increased. I think that's pretty admirable, especially considering everything he went through.


Without a doubt, Lauda!!


PaddyMcGrath Wildcardfox  Simply P No there definitely isn't anything from stopping us from researching except perhaps free time. After all most history happened before we were around. In sports I've studied Muhammad Ali, Edwin Moses (the track star), and Senna. But I have yet to study Hunt or Lauda. Thanks for the book title. Hopefully if I get some time I'll look it up.


Niki Lauda...I knew I chose wisely when I saw the poll results.


James Hunt slept with over 5000 woman during his lifetime and often went on regular cocaine and alcohol binges before a race he was like the Charlie Sheen of F1


Hunt. I like the womanizing playboy types, they're much more fun. To be able to live that lifestyle and still be a competitor, that's pretty impressive all on its own. Had Lauda not crashed at Nürburgring, he would have no doubt won the Championship that season. But due to the crash, of his own doing and by no interference from another driver, he missed out on vital points which allowed Hunt to catch up. Lauda had the chance to be consecutive Champion at Fuji, but chose to retire of his own accord; Hunt knew what he needed to do to win and gave an amazing performance to reach that goal.
Lauda was definitely the smarter driver, but Hunt had..."Balls". Had it not been for Lauda's missed points during his hospital time, Hunt would have never been able to close the gap. It's obvious to everyone why 1976 was Hunt's only F1 Championship, Lauda's crash. However, due to the nature of the sport and the well known risks, it just happened to be Hunt's year and he took advantage.
I would have cheered for Hunt. I like the playboys and I like the underdogs.


watched rush last night truly great film amazing history loved the use of cadwell park. if you haven't been then your missing out. the engine noise alone is worth going for.


Honestly, I think Lauda. As much as I like Hunt, if Niki was there for those races after Germany and didn't have his famous crash, it would've been a foregone conclusion by Japan. The fact that he did have that accident and was back after just four weeks to finish 4th at Monza is one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sport. Not just motorsport, but sport as a whole. You've got to respect him for that.


James Hunt, because of his tiredless fight for the safety in the racing world.


Lauda. After what he'd been through and his fight back to driving he deserved it.


ToneDiez I don't think Lauda's crash was because of driver error, it's widely suspected that a rear suspension arm failed.


PaddyMcGrath gatoonik I thought that comment was like saying that Days of Thunder had nothing to do with NASCAR. (okay, maybe a bit of a stretch) 
I'm glad Rush dealt with the characters in the story, rather than just the driving. I loved Grand Prix, and LeMans, but I couldn't get my girlfriend to watch either one.... She did like Rush, so it was a great blend for a entertaining film.


my opinion is based only on what i saw in cinema few days ago, but i think it was filmed as much realistic as possible.
To me it is Lauda. Because he really understands the sport and F1 technology and he is very wise when considering the limits.