In 1976, Niki Lauda was Formula One world champion.
So when he said the track at Nurburgring was too dangerous, he expected to be listened to.
But he wasn’t.
Everyone ignored him and the race went ahead.
During the race Niki Lauda was proved right, he crashed and died.
Well almost, he was trapped in a burning car, crash helmet melting over his head and face.
He inhaled toxic burning gases deep into his lungs.
His hair, his ear, his eyelids, were scorched off and his whole head was terribly burned.
In hospital he was in a coma, and given the last rites because of his impending death.
But he didn’t die, he forced himself to recover.
And just six weeks later he was in a Formula One car racing again.
He lost the world championship by just one point, to the man who’d carried on racing all the time Lauda was in the coma.
Niki Lauda learned never to trust anyone else’s opinions about anything.
The next year they used skin from his remaining ear to rebuild his eyelids, he got back in a Formula One car and won the world championship again.
This time he did it in a damaged car having driven over the wreckage of another crash, ignoring what his oil-pressure light said for the last 8 laps.
Seven years later, after everyone said he was finished as a driver, he came out of retirement to win the world championship for the third time, beating Alain Prost by half-a-point.
He learned to listen to no one but himself.
He’d also learned to fly and started his own airline, Lauda Air.
In 1991, one of Lauda Air’s Boeing planes crashed outside Bangkok, killing 223 people.
Lauda demanded to know from Boeing what the cause was.
Boeing said the engine’s reverse-thrust had deployed in mid-air, but this was recoverable.
Lauda didn’t see how a plane’s engines suddenly going backward was recoverable.
Boeing insisted it was, so it must be the fault of Lauda Air not Boeing.
Lauda wouldn’t accept it, he went to Boeing in Seattle and insisted they set up the flight simulator to replicate exactly what happened on the plane.
Boeing said it was a matter for them, Lauda said: “It is my plane. My name. My damage”.
Eventually they were forced to comply.
Lauda was an experienced pilot, but in fifteen attempts on the simulator he couldn’t recover the plane from sudden reverse-thrust, he crashed every single time.
Lauda insisted Boeing release a statement accepting full responsibility.
Boeing’s lawyers said it would take them three months to draught a response that they’d be happy with.
So did Niki Lauda complain, did he sulk, or did he just sit and wait meekly?
He did none of these, he called a press conference, he told the world’s media that if Boeing was convinced it was recoverable, they should pick their two most experienced pilots.
He’d go up in a plane with them and, in mid-air, they’d reverse the thrust.
If Boeing was right they’d recover the plane, if Boeing was wrong they’d all die, in front of the world’s media.
Of course Boeing couldn’t do that, so they were forced to issue a statement admitting that the plane couldn’t be recovered and accepting full responsibility.
Niki Lauda did that because he’d learned what happened when he trusted other peoples’ opinions over his own.
There’s a lot of pressure not to make a fuss, to keep quiet, to let the experts make the decisions.
But he’d learned, either way, we still take the consequences of what happens.
Alex Ferguson was once asked why he always ignored the press’s advice.
He said “I’d rather be hanged for my own mistakes than for someone else’s”.