Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda died on Monday, eight months after receiving a lung transplant. He was 70 years old.
“With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday,” his family said in a statement to the Austrian press agency.
Lauda was born in 1949 and began a career in racing, going against the wishes of his family. He made it to Formula One in 1971 driving for March Racing. He made his debut in his home country’s Austrian Grand Prix.
He returned to March Racing in 1972 before transitioning to BRM for the 1973 season. Lauda then caught the attention of Enzo Ferrari, who offered him an opportunity to join the famed Scuderia Ferrari team in 1974.
Lauda earned his first two Grand Prix victories in 1974 and backed them up with five more wins and the Formula One championship in 1975.
The 1976 season saw Lauda engage in his legendary battle over the Formula One crown with James Hunt. The two battled throughout the season before Lauda was badly burned in an accident during the German Grand Prix.
Much to the surprise of many, including Hunt, Lauda returned to competition six weeks after the crash in Germany to continue his fight with Hunt over the championship.
Lauda entered the finale in Japan leading the championship, but opted to retire from the race because he felt the torrential downpour taking place during the event made the racing unsafe. Hunt won the championship.
The 1976 season and the battle between Hunt and Lauda was dramatized in the 2013 film Rush, which featured Daniel Bruhl portraying Lauda.
Lauda returned to championship form in 1977, winning three times and capturing his second Formula One title. He left Ferrari to join Brabham in 1978, but following a frustrating 1979 season that saw Lauda fail to finish all but two rounds, he retired and started his own airplane business.
Lauda’s retirement didn’t last. In 1982, he joined McLaren and returned to Formula One, winning the United States Grand Prix and the British Grand Prix.
After a dismal 1983 season, Lauda returned to McLaren in 1984. Lauda and McLaren won five times and the Austrian driver claimed his third and final Formula One championship.
Lauda spent one more season with McLaren in 1985, but failed to finish most of the races. He won his final Formula One race that season during the Dutch Grand Prix. Lauda retired at the conclusion of the season.
After departing Formula One as a driver Lauda held multiple management and consulting positions. He was a consultant for Ferrari for a time and in 2001 Lauda became team principal of the Jaguar Formula One team. He left that role in 2002.
In 2012, he was appointed the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team and was often spotted in the Mercedes pits watching drivers Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas.
“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,” said Toto Wolff, Team Principal of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. “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.
“Our Mercedes team has also lost a guiding light. As a team-mate over the past six and a half years, Niki was always brutally honest – and utterly loyal. It was a privilege to count him among our team and moving to witness just how much it meant to him to be part of the team’s success. Whenever he walked the floor in Brackley and Brixworth, or delivered one of his famous motivational speeches, he brought an energy that nobody else could replicate.
“Niki, you are quite simple irreplaceable, there will never be another like you. It was our honor to call you our Chairman – and my privilege to call you my friend.”
“On behalf of all the members of the RRDC, we are truly saddened to hear of the passing of Niki Lauda,” said Road Racing Drivers Club President Bobby Rahal. “When one thinks of comebacks, no one can meet the example set by Niki – from being given Last Rites to winning two more World Championships.
“I had the privilege to work with Niki over the years and he was truly a remarkable man. God Speed, Niki.”
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 pic.twitter.com/Ndd9ZEfm6B
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) May 21, 2019