Sporting Narratives is InsiderSport’s opportunity to explore a time in which a gripping sporting narrative was portrayed through the unmistakable medium of cinema.

This edition looks at Ron Howard’s Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated Rush (2013), which is centered around one of Formula 1’s greatest ever rivalries between the Austrain Niki Lauda and the British James Hunt.  

The film tells the story of the two drivers, depicting their first meeting in Formula 3 in 1970 and taking you on a journey which culminates in Hunt’s 1976 World Championship win. Along the way, the movie documents both Hunt’s and Lauda’s arrival in Formula 1, the Austrian’s first world championship (1975) and has a specific focus on Lauda’s fight for survival and miraculous return to racing following his life threatening crash at Nürburgring (1976).

Howard’s biopic not only focuses on the competitive rivalry between both racers, but also touches on their private lives, depicting both their marriages and Hunt’s desperate struggle to find a F1 team in 1976 following the end of Hesketh Racing, the Brit’s first F1 team.

“I think it was 80% right in what happened. There is a little bit of Hollywood but that is logical”

As mentioned above, the movie has a specific focus on the Austrian’s crash in 1996 and spares no detail as you witness his gruelling fight to return back to his Ferrari cockpit. The accident, which shows Lauda’s vehicle burst into a ball of flames, left the driver scarred for life and required him to undergo a skingraft and have his lungs vacuumed.

The movie also depicts his return to Formula 1 and features a scene in which a journalist is assaulted by Hunt after goading the returning Austrian during his return press-conference – Although this scene is not confirmed to be true, Hunt’s son Tom teased its authenticity reportedly stating: “That’s the way dad was.”  

Although the 123 minute racing epic did not win a ‘best picture’ award, it received high praise from Lauda himself despite the Austrian having reservations about the movie early on: “I got called by Peter Morgan, who wrote the script, and he told me he had this idea so we should meet. I met him seven or eight times and asked me questions. He started to ask funny questions, stupid questions and I got a little bit worried, so I asked him to read something to me. He opened his laptop and said ‘you got in the Ferrari, put the seat belt on, turned the key and off you went’. I told him ‘are you nuts. There is no key in a Ferrari, there is a button and I can’t put the seatbelt on myself’. 

“After this he got a little worried and started asking me all these technical questions carefully. It ended up that Daniel Brühl (who portrays Lauda) called me to ask questions and this became an ongoing situation. This helped him to play me that well because I think he did an outstanding job I have to say. 

“When I saw the movie for the first time they showed it to me without music, not with the right cuts and just the raw movie. When I looked at it I really was worried. Then we went down to London for the premiere and I was worried going in. Then I looked at it when the music was on and it started to be different even to me. I looked around at how people reacted watching it and I saw them laughing and crying and there was a lot of emotions in the public. In the end I think it worked out very well. 

“I think it was 80% right in what happened. There is a little bit of Hollywood but that is logical. I have to say I really like it. You have to see the movie as a whole, but my favourite part is at the end when I talk to James when he is going partying and I went back to Ferrari and work.”

This part referenced by Lauda features a monologue in which the Austrian briefly discusses Hunt’s career up until his untimely death aged 45 in 1993. The scene continues with Lauda revealing that despite being thought of solely as Rivals, Hunt remained the only person he ever envied and was one of the few people he liked and respected.

The film offers an insight into Formula 1 and one of its greatest ever rivalries. You don’t need to know who these men are to enjoy it, but you will want to know more about them once you’ve watched it.

Giving his final thoughts on how the film portrayed his relationship with Hunt, Lauda concluded by saying: “This friendship we had in the beginning, then we lost it and then it came back in the end is the truth of the movie.” 

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