I’ve had to keep this one quiet for a while. On the scale of the most important, humbling, emotive commissions I have ever undertaken, this is easily the most important, humbling, and emotive – and an absolute honour. A years work to create the definitive celebration of the most revered character in Formula One’s history, the indomitable late great Niki Lauda.
Commissioned by Niki’s great friend and McLaren principal shareholder Mansour Ojjeh before he too sadly passed away last year, unveiling today on the 3rd anniversary of Niki’s passing, and featuring a three fingered salute as Niki celebrated his third world title, for McLaren in 1984. Completely coincidentally he is also the third bronze statue I have created for McLaren after Ayrton Senna and Bruce McLaren, sometimes things are just meant to be.
Niki was first crowned world champion actually the day after I born in 1975! The research I had to do before knowing how I needed to create Niki was approximately, zero. There was an image in my head of a clip I’d seen somewhere of Niki throwing three fingers in the air celebrating, before Prost who had won the final deciding race but still lost the championship by ½ a point, ushered him onto the top step of the podium. During the meeting with McLaren to discuss ideas, I mentioned this moment to Zak Brown and pulled up a google image and that was it, meeting over in less than five minutes, concept immediately approved. It might have even been three minutes.
From the base celebratory pose there was a fair dose of artistic licence added. On the podium in Estoril Niki wore the prescribed Michelin podium cap… but of course I needed to upgrade this to his ubiquitous red Parmalat cap. I gave him his helmet to carry with gloves inside as drivers often do, and a half step forward for dynamic.
As followers of my work will know, I base my bronze statues on real life with 3D capture for the ultimate realism, and Niki was no different. And so to that end collecting Niki’s helmet and race suit from McLaren for modelling, was a bit of a WTF moment! Our 3D capturing technique and results having progressed so much in the couple of years since Senna, not only are the individual stitches of the race suit clearly visible in the bronze but even the material texture of the race suit is too.
Niki’s head is a clay sculpt based on the Estoril cheeky podium grin which was perfect, his famous teeth prominent, and his well known scarring from that fireball eight years previous needed to feature too but maybe not so strong that it was too dominant. Then laser scanned to marry up with the stunt body in CAD.
There will be an edition of three 250kg life size bronze statues cast of Niki, to match his world title tally. One of these will be shown at Silverstone F1 week in July. Additionally a series of 25 bronzes will be created at 60% scale (F1 wind tunnel size) a little over 1m tall, marking Niki’s F1 race win tally.
I need of course to thank my collaborators on this project, my image capture team at Steve Russell Studios, the 3D guys at Pangolin Digital especially Joe, and the casting specialists at Pangolin Editions for their perfection. As I keep saying – no man can achieve anything alone!
Thank you too to McLaren for the positivity and belief entrusting me with this monumental project, especially Zak Brown, Tim Bampton and the late Mansour Ojjeh.