The three-time Formula 1 champion has sadly passed away.
Niki Lauda, one of the all-time greatest Formula 1 drivers in history who raced and one F1 world titles for Ferrari and McLaren, has passed away peacefully at the age of 70. Lauda suffered from a series of health issues, most recently a pneumonia diagnosis in January.
"With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday, May 20, 2019,” his family said in an official 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.”
The native Austrian won 25 grand prix and won titles in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and another in 1984 with McLaren. But it was his horrific accident in 1976 at the German Grand Prix that will forever be remembered. He suffered third-degree burns to his head and face and inhaled toxic gases that severely damaged his lungs. He was so close to death that he was even given last rites at the hospital.
In typical Lauda fashion, he refused to give up. Just 40 days after the accident, he returned to racing and finished fourth in the Italian Grand Prix. The heated rivalry against James Hunt couldn’t be doused, though Lauda lost the title that year to Hunt. Unfortunately, those internal injuries caused lifelong health problems. He received kidney transplants in 1997 and 2005 and a double lung transplant in 2018. He was diagnosed with pneumonia in January and was hospitalized. He never fully recovered.
Aside from his racing career, Lauda was an airplane pilot and successfully launched Lauda Air, which later merged with Austrian Airlines. Following his retirement from F1 racing, he took on a brief consulting role at Ferrari in 1993 and in 2001 took charge of the Ford-owned Jaguar team. That role ended in 2002 when he, along with nearly the entire team, was fired due to poor performance. But Lauda couldn’t sit still for long. In 2003 he founded a new airline, called Niki, and took on an analyst’s role for German F1 TV.
In 2012, he was appointed a non-executive director of Mercedes F1. Lauda played a key role in luring F1 champion Lewis Hamilton away from McLaren. Niki Lauda was married twice and was a father of five. His second wife gave birth to twins in 2008. Tributes to Lauda have been pouring in from across the racing world, including from Lewis Hamilton and former competitor and teammate Alain Prost.
There will never be anyone else quite like Niki Lauda. He was one of a kind.