Formula One legend Austrian Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70 (Photo: ERWIN SCHERIAU/AFP/Getty Images)Niki Lauda, one of Formula One’s most famous drivers, has died at the age of 70.
A three-time F1 title winner with Ferrari and McLaren, the racing car legend passed away peacefully in Vienna on Monday, nine months after a lung transplant, it was confirmed on Tuesday night.
In a statement, his family said: ‘With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday.’
The driver was badly injured in a car blaze back in 1976, during the German Grand Prix, and inhaled dangerous levels of smoke
Lauda sustained third-degree burns but was back in the driving seat within six weeks of the accident (Picture: Allsport UK /Allsport)
Niki was pulled from the wreckage of his Ferrari during one of F1’s most dramatic moments (Photo by Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images)‘His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are and will remain unforgettable, his tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain.
‘A role model and a benchmark for all of us, he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather away from the public, and he will be missed.’
Lauda had been recovering from a lung transplant since last August.
He was taken ill with ‘a severe affection of the lungs’ during a holiday in Ibiza and the decision was made to fly him to Vienna for emergency surgery.
At the start of 2019, he was reportedly back in hospital in Vienna with flu.
McLaren issued a statement on Twitter to say they were ‘deeply saddened’ (Picture: Twitter/MClaren)The Austrian was three-time F1 World Drivers’ Champion, with wins in 1975, 1977 and 1984.
In a tribute on Twitter, McLaren bosses said: ‘All at McLaren are deeply saddened to learn that our friend, colleague and 1984 Formula 1 World Champion, Niki Lauda, has passed away.
‘Niki will forever be in our hearts and enshrined in our history. #RIPNiki’
Lauda raced since the age of 21 and only took a brief break from Formula 1 when he was badly injured in a 1976 racing blaze.
Lauda went on to win three championships (Photo by: GP Library/UIG via Getty Images)The driver’s Ferrari burst into flames at the side of the track during the German Grand Prix.
Despite serious levels of smoke inhalation and third-degree burns to his face, he returned just six weeks later for the Italian Grand Prix.
Afterward, he revealed how his determination to ‘fight’ superseded any fear about getting back in the driver’s seat.
‘Yes, I had burns – I was burned – but I recovered quickly,’ he said. ‘This time it was really long but I am still here.
‘I have to be honest: no, I was never scared. I was in the hands of excellent specialists. I put my trust in them.’
Lauda was known for his fierce rivalry with James Hunt (right) (Photo by Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images)In spite of his successes, it was the fascination with his racing rivalry with James Hunt that inspired 2013 Hollywood film, Rush, starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl.
The rivalry dominated both drivers’ racing careers for around six years, between 1973 and 1979.
Ultimately, Lauda triumphed succeeding in three championships to Hunt’s one 1976 win – the same year as Lauda’s car accident.
Lauda retired from racing in 1979 to spend time on his airline, Lauda Air, but he was tempted back to McLaren for a reported $3million a year in 1982, where he raced until 1985.
To the end, Lauda was a good friend and fan of Lewis Hamilton (Picture: JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET/AFP/Getty Images)Right until the end, he has remained an avid fan, and friend, of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, recently saying he has never missed a race.
‘I did not miss a single Grand Prix even though I was on lots of drips,’ he said. ‘I was part of all the races, I telephoned the pit box at the end of every week and they always told me what was happening.
‘It was if I was on the side of the track with all the others.’