Formula 1 racing legend Niki Lauda dead at 70

Lula Sharp
May 21, 2019

Lauda, a three-time Drivers' Championship victor, still remains as the only person to have won a world title with Ferrari and McLaren. Lauda had received a lung transplant eight months ago that required him to stay in the hospital for over two months, while he was also admitted in the hospital once again earlier this year due to a flu infection.

The popular figure died peacefully in his sleep on Monday surrounded by family.

On 1 August 1976, one year after winning his first title, he suffered third-degree burns to his head and face and inhaled toxic gases that damaged his lungs after his vehicle burst into flames at Nurburgring.

"With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday", his family said in a statement issued to Austrian media.

The statement paid tribute to "his unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur" and said "his tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain". Trapped in his burning vehicle, he was pulled from the wreckage but suffered severe burns and damage to his lungs.

Niki Lauda in 1982.

He also had kidney transplants in 1997 and 2005.

Former motorcycling world champion Casey Stoner said on Twitter: "RIP Niki Lauda, a true Icon and Motorsport legend".

Lauda's success after that crash was remarkable and it's not hyperbole to call it the greatest comeback story in Formula 1 history.

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"But I did not want to die".

Lauda did not only go on living, he went on fighting.

The Austrian is most famous to casual racing fans for the movie "Rush", which featured the rivalry Lauda had with James Hunt.

Initially a charter airline, Lauda Air expanded in the 1980s to offer flights to Asia and Australia.

The low point in his aviation career came in 1991 with the crash of a Lauda Air Boeing 767 in Thailand.

"I was deeply shocked", Lauda said of the accident, admitting that he felt guilty until an investigation showed a technical problem caused the tragedy.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, he grew "Lauda Air" into an worldwide carrier with long-haul flights out of Austria across the globe before it was merged into Austrian Airlines in 2012. He bought it back in January 2018 to run it under the Laudamotion brand, only to sell it quickly to Irishbudget carrier Ryanair.

Mercedes AMG Petronas named Lauda a non-executive chairman in 2012, and he was widely credited with bringing current F1 champion Lewis Hamilton to the team.

Lauda will be remembered not only for his world championships but also for his exceptional driving and better judgement on and off the track.

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