Austrian racing driver Niki Lauda (right) with driver Harald Ertl during the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, 12th September 1976. Ertl helped pull Lauda from the burning wreck of his Ferrari, after his near fatal crash at the German Grand Prix earlier that year. (Photo by Tony Duffy/Getty Images)

One thing that’s very difficult to discern among the drivers filling up the entry lists of Formula 1 races is that it’s hard to tell what, or who, is a “pay driver.” That is, who is only where they are because of skill, and who is there because of sponsorship connections. The line is impossibly blurred at this point. Everyone is a mix of both. What is not unclear at all is that nobody on the grid has such an outstandingly wonderful and mirthful mustache as that of the late Harald Ertl.

Ertl was, as Motorsport Magazine put it, “essentially an amateur racing driver.” He was a journalist from Austria who was reasonably successful in touring car racing, or at least successful enough to get a sponsorship from big German beer brand Warsteiner in the mid 1970s to run in F1 with one of the smaller teams at the time.

Harald in a later, ‘76 Hesketh, not plastered up in Warsteiner graphics. Photo: Getty Images

You can see some of his interview work here, as well as that billowing, flowing, cascading, bountiful mustache above his hearty beard:

Even the biggest teams in F1 in the 1970s were hilariously small and low-cost in comparison to F1 today, so getting in with Hesketh (as Ertl did) was a thing that, well, a guy like Ertl could do. The days of things like, Alexander Rossi getting booted out of a potential F1 seat against... the backing of an entire state-run petro giant had not yet arrived in the sport.

Ertl is best remembered as being one of the guys who dragged Niki Lauda out of his burning car at the Nürburgring, and never finished more than mid-pack in F1. He died at 33 in a light plane crash just a few years on, as Motorsport Magazine recounts, part of a family retreat to an island off the coast of northern Germany.

This is all to say there was a time when a guy such as Ertl could race in F1, and could bring such wonderful facial hair to the sport. I mean, I guess you could still grow a stache like this if you wanted. Leclerc, you got this.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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