F1 MORNS THE PASSING OF LEGEND NIKI LAUDA
Three-time Formula one world champion Niki Lauda who narrowly escaped death suffering horrific burns when his Ferrari crashed in Germany in 1976 has died aged 70.
Lauda who underwent a lung transplant last year “passed away peacefully” on Monday his family confirmed via a press release.
Born on 22nd February 1949 to a wealthy industrialist family in Vienna, Niki was expected to follow his father into the paper manufacturing industry - but the young Austrian had other ideas. With his early motor racing career financed by a series of bank loans, Niki rapidly progressed up the motorsport ladder - eventually joining Scuderia Ferrari in 1974 and scoring his first win that same year.
A first Formula One title followed a year later - but it was the 1976 season that was to define Lauda's career, after he suffered near-fatal injuries in an accident at the Nürburgring. Through sheer force of will, Niki would return to the cockpit just six weeks later at Monza. Scarred but undeterred, Niki would ultimately concede the 1976 title to his great rival and later friend James Hunt, before adding a second World Championship to his list of honors the following season.
A third title followed in 1984 before Niki retired from F1 at the end of the 1985 season, taking on a role with German commercial TV station RTL as the resident expert in addition to acting as an adviser to Ferrari in the mid-90s.
For the 2001 and 2002 seasons, Niki became first Race Director and later Team Principal at the British Jaguar Racing Formula 1 team. He would return to the boardroom in 2012 as Non-Executive Chairman of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.
Toto Wolff, Team Principal of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, paid tribute to the team's Chairman, Niki Lauda.
"First of all, on behalf of the team and all at Mercedes, I wish to send our deepest condolences to Birgit, Niki's children, his family and close friends. Niki will always remain one of the greatest legends of our sport - he combined heroism, humanity and honesty inside and outside the cockpit. His passing leaves a void in Formula One. We haven't just lost a hero who staged the most remarkable comeback ever seen, but also a man who brought precious clarity and candour to modern Formula One. He will be greatly missed as our voice of common sense. It was our honour to call you our Chairman - and my privilege to call you my friend."
Away from the racetrack, Niki put his entrepreneurial talents to work for his second great passion - aviation. Lauda Air was born in 1979 and by the 1990s had obtained a worldwide scheduled flight concession, leading to close collaboration with Lufthansa and ultimately the takeover of Lauda Air by the German operator in 2002. Fly Niki was born 12 months later, itself eventually taken over by Air Berlin in 2011 and Niki's company Laudamotion at the start of 2018.
Lauda is survived by his second wife, Birgit, and their twin children Max and Mia. He had two adult sons, Lukas and Mathias, from his first marriage.