Niki Lauda, 3-Time F1 World Champ, Dies at 70
Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda passed away on Monday, May 20, surrounded by family.
The Austrian, who won two of his titles after a serious crash that caused life-threatening burns, “passed away peacefully,” according to his family.
Lauda has been facing health issues since the middle of last year, after which he had to undergo a lung transplant in August. The operation was followed by a two-month stay in the hospital for recuperation and observation.
“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.
“His unique successes as a sportsman and entrepreneur are and remain unforgettable,” the family statement said. “His tireless drive, his straightforwardness and his courage remain an example and standard for us all. Away from the public gaze he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather away from the public, and he will be missed.”
Lauda first won the F1 world championship in 1975 with Ferrari. The following year, he crashed during the German Grand Prix that left him badly burned. With sheer force of will, he got back into the cockpit six weeks later and was racing again, missing only two races.
Lauda then went on to win his second F1 crown in 1977 with Ferrari, and a third in 1984, with McLaren.
He retired in 1985, but remained closely involved with F1 in various roles. In 1993, he returned to F1 in a managerial capacity with Ferrari. In 2001, he became team principal for the Jaguar Formula One team. After 10 years away from the sport, he returned as non-executive chairman for the Mercedes AMG F1 team in 2012 where he reportedly played a pivotal role in the signing of Lewis Hamilton to the team. Since joining the team, Hamilton has since won four of five World Drivers’ Championship titles. Lauda, in turn, continued in his role until his illness last year.
In August 2018, Laude had to undergo lung transplant surgery at the Vienna General Hospital. Without giving away too many details, the hospital said that the operation was necessitated by a serious lung illness.
Laude is survived by his second wife, Birgit, and four children, of which two are from his first marriage.