The Spanish-born star is understood to be in talks to play the Austrian Formula One champion and arch rival to British racing icon James Hunt in the project from UK-based Revolution Films and Working Title and US financier Cross Creek Pictures.

Producers Andrew Eaton, Eric Fellner and Brian Oliver are eyeing a late 2011 start in Germany and the UK once Chris Hemsworth, the frontrunner to play Hunt, has fulfilled his obligations on Universal’s Snow White And The Huntsman.

Ron Howard is on board to direct from a screenplay by Peter Morgan and was a guest of Lauda at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone last weekend.

Morgan’s script is believed to be a typically compelling character study that focuses on the intense rivalry between the two drivers throughout the 1970s. Cross Creek is fully financing the project.

Brühl stars in the eagerly anticipated San Sebastian opening night premiere Intruders from Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and his credits include Inglourious Basterds and Goodbye Lenin!

Lauda won the World Championship three times and suffered horrific burns in a race crash that nearly cost the driver his life in 1976.

That was the year Hunt won the Championship. Hemsworth, riding high on the global success of Thor, is understood to have impressed with a video test as the hard-partying racer who eventually succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 45 in 1993.

Cross Creek, Revolution and Working Title declined to comment.