• The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel. It’s a wonderful way to live. It’s the only way to drive.” – James Hunt

Until recently, this would be about the time of the German Grand Prix, but failure to secure adequate support left it on the scrap heap of races (considerably before the added challenge of coronavirus).

We recently watched the film based on the most famous German Grand Prix in 1976 when Niki Lauda tragically crashed and came about as close to death as a human can and not cross over.

Not only is Hunt’s quote a classic embrace of ‘failure’, the two rivals in the race – James Hunt and Niki Lauda – portray the Leadership (Hunt) Management (Lauda) dichotomy in risk attitudes:

  • James Hunt: Yes, I was. I admit it. I was prepared to die to beat you that day. And that’s the effect you have on me. You’d pushed me that far. And it felt great. I mean, hell, isn’t that we’re in this for? To stare death in the face, and to cheat it? Come on, there’s nobility in that. It’s… it’s like being knights.
  • Niki Lauda: You English, you’re such assholes. You know my position. Twenty percent risk.

Lauda argues to Hunt that, yes, his aggressive style will win him a few races, but he won’t score points race in and race out throughout the season. The film is a relatively balanced portrayal of these two perspectives of risk, and if anything, slanted slightly toward a vindication of management as Lauda’s apprehensive turned out to be tragically on the mark.