FORMULA One legend Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70, his heartbroken family has confirmed.
The three-time F1 world champion passed away peacefully on Monday – eight months after undergoing a lung transplant.
AFP or licensors Formula One legend Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70
“With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday,” his family said in a statement.
“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.”
British racing driver Jenson Button led the tributes, saying: “A legend has left us. Rest in peace Niki.”
Lauda won three world titles as a Formula One driver in 1975, 1977 and 1984 with Mercedes and Ferrari.
The F1 titan was severely burned in a near-fatal crash in 1976 and incredibly came back to the sport, winning his second world championship a year later.
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Niki Lauda’s horrifying crash that nearly killed the F1 legend at at the Nürburgring for the 1976 German Grand Prix
PA:Press Association Lauda, centre, was instrumental in Mercedes hiring Lewis Hamilton, left, in 2013
Hulton Archive – Getty Lauda, left, was severely injured from a fireball crash at the Nurburgring in 1976 and his rivalry with Britain’s James Hunt became the stuff of legend
Getty – Contributor Lauda won three world titles as a Formula One driver in 1975, 1977 and 1984 with Mercedes and Ferrari
Jenson Button paid tribute to the racing legend
The comeback became the stuff of legend and his battle with Britain’s James Hunt was the subject of the hit movie Rush.
But his severe fireball injuries and burns – contracted 42 years ago – left him battling health problems for the rest of his life.
He had two kidney transplants, with one donated by his brother Florian in 1997 and another from his wife Brigit in 2005.
The Austrian racer also underwent a lung transplant in August last year after falling ill with flu-like symptoms while on holiday in Ibiza.
He had the procedure in Vienna, with medics revealing he had been suffering from “severe lung disease”.
Since his lung transplant, the 70-year-old’s road to recovery has been slowed by setbacks including a flu infection.
Earlier this month, he was transferred to a private clinic so he could have dialysis treatment for his kidney problems.
Speaking 10 days ago, his brother Florian said: “Niki is making progress but he is still in Switzerland”.
But it appears as though the F1 legend must have had a relapse.
Niki Lauda leads from lights to flag for a convincing win in the 1975 F1 Monaco Grand Prix
Corbis Lauda has been a key part of Lewis Hamilton’s decision to join Mercedes, where the Brit has won three world titles
PA:Press Association Lauda’s life-threatening crash in 1976 prompted one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history
Speaking about his recent health battle, the Austrian legend said: “I was in hospital until two days ago then I had permission to go home and I flew to Ibiza where I will spend Christmas with my family.
“I have to do six hours of training every day, helped by two trainers who don’t leave me for a second. But I am back in my own four walls, the air is clean, the weather is not inclement like in Austria.
“In a month they have told me I will be in top form and ready to go again. Doing what? My usual life – following Formula One, why not?”
Lauda was appointed as Mercedes’ non-executive chairman in 2012 and was involved in the signing of Lewis Hamilton to the team.
He was also an airline entrepreneur and recently agreed to sell his controlling stake in Laudamotion to Ryanair.
Movie fans will recognise the Lauda and Hunt story from the hit 2013 film ‘Rush’
Rush – Official trailer for new F1 movie
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