Formula 1

Niki Lauder (left) with Eddie Irvine (right).

Niki Lauda compares Lewis Hamilton/Nico Rosberg rivalry to his with James Hunt

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Legendary Formula One driver Niki Lauda has likened British F1 star Lewis Hamilton to his old track rival James Hunt, and while doing so, compared himself with Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.

Lauda - who is now chairman of Mercedes - made this comparison on the 40th anniversary of Hunt's memorable World Championship win back in 1976.

The '76 F1 World Championship is arguably one of the most exciting seasons ever to take place in the 66-year history of the sport.

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It saw Austrian driver Lauda and British driver Hunt undertake a ferociously contested battle - which would go right to the wire - for the right to lift the driver's title at the end of the season.

It would be Hunt who would take the spoils, running out eventual winner by just one championship point.

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During an interview with Press Association sport, Lauda reflected on his rivalry with Hunt by saying: "It is like Hamilton and Rosberg today. One lives one kind of life, and the other lives a different lifestyle. It was a similar situation between James and me.

"I was trying to concentrate, focus and work on my car, and get everything right. He had an easy life and got it right in another way.

"He was a straightforward, eccentric, and a weird guy, but very good for Formula One."

The '76 season would turn out to be a memorable one for Lauda, however, in more ways than one.

F1 Grand Prix of Germany - Qualifying

He was involved in a serious accident at the Nurburgring midway though the season that saw his car engulfed in a huge fireball.

Lauda was pulled to safety from the burning wreckage but suffered severe burns to his face and torso which left the - rather fortunate to be alive - racing driver scarred for life.

The accident came at a time in the season which had Lauda leading the championship by 26-points, but although, somewhat miraculously, he only missed two races as a result of the catastrophe, his short absence from the competition was enough to see the initiative switch to Hunt.

Upon his return to the track, Lauda still led the championship, but by this time, his lead in the championship had been reduced to just three points.

AUTO-PRIX-JPN-F1-PODIUM

The '76 season came to a head at the Japanese Grand Prix, and Hunt was presented a gift from the heavens when his rival was forced to pull out of the race during lap two as a result of poor weather conditions.

Hunt, who passed away at the age of 45 in 1993, went on to finish the race in third place to clinch the championship.

On his feelings about the results of that infamous F1 championship, Lauda said: "I have to say that when he won the championship, I said to myself, the only one who deserves it is him.

F1 Grand Prix of Japan

"With his ups and downs, and drinking, and the way he lived Formula One, I was really happy it was him, and I told him that."

Both drivers will forever live in the memories of all Motorsport fans, and their historic duel for the '76 crown will go down as possibly the greatest spectacle ever to take place in the history of the sport.

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