Sipario, standing ovation e tante lacrime: si dice che la fine carriera di un grande sportivo passi irrimediabilmente attraverso queste fasi. Tanti dietro a quel drappo rosso decidono di iniziare una nuova vita, lontano dai riflettori e dal clamore che avevano contraddistinto le loro imprese, altri cedono al richiamo dei tempi che furono e finiscono per reinventarsi sotto nuove spoglie, senza, di fatto, aver mai mollato il colpo. Poi c’era Niki Lauda…
Già, Niki era unico. Quando smise di correre avevo quattro anni e, per quanto la mia passione sia stata precoce, posso dire di non averlo mai visto al volante di una F1, ma il suo carisma e la sua storia l’avevano già reso una leggenda vivente. L’uomo che aveva vissuto due volte, il pilota che aveva sconfitto la sofferenza, il campione che aveva saputo guardare in faccia la vita e che aveva avuto il coraggio di avere paura. Lauda era tutto questo e, anche nella percezione innocente di un ragazzino, i racconti di quella domenica sotto il diluvio del Fuji avevano un qualcosa di epico.
Ricordo una mattina di novembre di qualche anno più tardi, mentre, appena raggiunto il mio banco di scuola, cercavo di riprendere pieno possesso delle mie facoltà mentali, dopo un traumatico risveglio. Nel mio istituto i Salesiani avevano l’abitudine di accogliere gli studenti in grandi aule studio e dedicavano i minuti che separavano quel momento dall’inizio delle lezioni ad uno spunto di riflessione. Don Virgilio era solito ricorrere alla lettura di alcuni passaggi di grandi storici, filosofi o uomini di Chiesa, ma quel giorno stupì tutti perché tra le mani non aveva libri, volumi o appunti. Quel giorno ci raccontò di un campione del Mondo di Formula 1 che il 24 Ottobre del 1976 decise di imboccare la corsia dei box, parcheggiare la sua Ferrari e dire addio alla possibilità di confermarsi tale. Niki Lauda non era uno sportivo che aveva perso una sfida, era un uomo che aveva affrontato con coraggio un momento di fragilità, decidendo con altrettanta fermezza di assumersi il peso di quella scelta, senza trincerarsi dietro dichiarazioni di comodo che avrebbero dato un sapore diverso ad una sconfitta. Le parole di Don Virgilio avevano un convincente carico di rispetto per la profondità di quel momento e per la prima volta io e i miei compagni capimmo quanto il concetto di vittoria potesse non essere necessariamente collegato all’arrivare primi.
Nel corso della sua carriera agonistica, Lauda non ha mai brillato per simpatia o loquacità, è stato, per contro, un professionista che aveva fatto del pragmatismo, un aspetto fondamentale dell’essere vincente: “Io ho paura a lasciarmi andare. – raccontava nella sua biografia, “Meine Story” – Credo che in quel caso libererei un sorprendente talento per l’autodistruzione. È per questo che mi sono creato un sistema che protegge ed amministra le mie forze. A questo appartiene anche… il controllo dei sentimenti”. Nonostante questo aspetto apparentemente imperturbabile, negli ultimi anni, non è stato difficile vederlo sorridere e scherzare nel paddock, quasi avesse maturato un diverso approccio alla vita. Vita che, nonostante gli anni trascorsi alla presidenza del Team Mercedes, è stata e sarà indelebilmente tinta di Rosso, proprio come la tuta che ha scelto di indossare per il suo ultimo viaggio.
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