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Formula One Legend Niki Lauda Dies at Age 70

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2019

Mercedes Racing CEO Niki Lauda looks on at the paddock prior to the Formula One Austria Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, on July 9, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / APA / ERWIN SCHERIAU / Austria OUT        (Photo credit should read ERWIN SCHERIAU/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP Contributor/Getty Images

Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda has died aged 70.

Per the Austria Press Agency (h/t Giles Richards of The Guardian), a statement released by Lauda's family read: "With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday."

Lauda, who had a lung transplant last August, won two world championships with Ferrari in 1975 and 1977 before claiming a third with McLaren in 1984 after returning to the sport following his first retirement.

The Austrian won 25 races in 171 starts, and he remained actively involved in F1 until the end of his life, acting as non-executive chairman of Mercedes and playing a key role in signing Lewis Hamilton to the team in 2012.

E. Di Baia/Associated Press

His most remarkable achievement in the sport, though, was recovering from a horrific crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix.

On August 1 of that year, on the second lap of the race, Lauda's Ferrari went off the track, hit an embankment and burst into flames.

Lauda was trapped in the wreckage, and before he was dragged out, he suffered third-degree burns to his head and face and also inhaled hot toxic gases, damaging his lungs and blood.

Lauda lost most of his right ear in recovery, but he missed only two races, returning just 40 days after the crash to finish fourth at the Italian Grand Prix.

The tributes paid to Lauda after the announcement of his death showed how admired and respected he was in the sport:

Formula 1 @F1

Rest in peace Niki Lauda. Forever carried in our hearts, forever immortalised in our history. The motorsport community today mourns the devastating loss of a true legend. The thoughts of everyone at F1 are with his friends and family. https://t.co/olmnjDaefo

McLaren @McLarenF1

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 https://t.co/Ndd9ZEfm6B

Jenson Button @JensonButton

A legend has left us. Rest in peace Niki 😔 https://t.co/ciHVRzGWL1

Ted Kravitz @tedkravitz

Niki Lauda was one of a kind. To live through so much, to achieve so much and to do it with a twinkle in the eye, glinting under that red cap. He was different class - Thoughts with his family, friends and colleagues. Remember him with a smile.

He retired for good from driving at the end of the 1985 season and returned to running his airline, Lauda Air, as he had after his first retirement in 1979. He subsequently set up another airline, Niki, in 2003.

Lauda's legacy was ensured during his time as a driver, but he will also be remembered for his roles after he stopped competing, while sporting the ever-present cap he used to hide his injuries following his crash.

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