As the reigning F1 World Champion of 1975 Niki Lauda started the new season with #1. Although he had to use last year’s Ferrari 312T for the first three rounds of 1976 the Austrian dominated the early season with two wins and a second position. From the Spanish Grand Prix the Scuderia Ferrari entered their new 312T2 and Lauda continued his winning streak unabated. After victories in Belgium, Monaco and at the British Grand Prix he clearly led the standings of the championship when the Formula 1 grid prepared for the German Grand Prix at the long Green Hell Nordschleife of the Nürburgring on August 1, 1976.
Lauda had criticized the Green Hell track upfront as being outdated and too dangerous. Still he qualified his 312T2 for the first row next to James Hunt’s McLaren. Because of dark clouds at the start nearly all drivers started the race on rain tires but on a drying track 14 of them entered the pits after the first lap to stop for slicks, among them Niki Lauda. The rest is history: on only his second lap Niki Lauda had a horrible accident at the track section Bergwerk and only narrowly escaped death by flames. Despite his serious burns he re-joined the Ferrari cockpit at Monza still leading by points. He lost the title only at the chaotic rain final at Japan.