Rated as one of the greatest F1 drivers of his generation – Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70, eight months after undergoing surgery for a lung transplant. The three-time world champion won the coveted F1 drivers’ championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and in 1984 with McLaren. Lauda was hugely admired and a well-respected figure in the F1 world for his contribution towards the sport.
Niki was mostly remembered for his remarkable recovery and return to racing after being badly burned in a crash in the 1976 German Grand Prix. Lauda’s incredible comeback after dodging death instantly made him the stuff of legend and his 1976 rivalry with British driver James Hunt was the plot line of the movie – Rush. Mclaren F1 team paid their tributes to Lauda on Twitter and wrote “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”.
“With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday,” the family said in a statement, according to the Austrian press agency. In the statement, they paid tribute to “his unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur” and said “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.”
Niki, who was born in Austria, had a tight working relationship with five-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton. Lauda was involved when Lewis signed with McClaren ahead of the 2013 racing season.
He competed in 171 races in his lifetime and out of those, he succeeded in winning 25. The Austrian, even had some business establishments including his own airline and he had senior roles in F1 management.