Niki Lauda: Austrian F1 legend dies at 70

Brenda Watkins
May 21, 2019

Lauda underwent an emergency lung transplant in a Vienna hospital in August 2 previous year after contracting an infection in his lungs, which were scarred and weakened by the effects of inhaling high-temperature smoke during the 1976 accident.

According to a statement by Lauda's family, the racing legend "peacefully passed away with his family".

The 70-year-old won the Championship in 1975 and 1977 for Ferrari and in 1984 for McLaren.

Lauda was badly burned in a crash in the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring that heavily scarred his face and head and led to Lauda's signature caps, sometimes sold to sponsors.

The next season, in 1977, Lauda went on to win his second Formula One world championship with Ferrari.

He was also Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's non-executive chairman and was involved in the signing of Lewis Hamilton.

Born on 22 February 1949 in Vienna, Austria, to a wealthy family, Lauda developed an early interest in auto racing and pursued his passion despite staunch opposition from his family.

Walter Klepetko, a doctor who carried out a lung transplant on Lauda a year ago, said Tuesday: "Niki Lauda has died".

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The death of the world champion has rocked the sport just days out from the start of the Monaco Grand Prix - the jewel in the sport's crown. He was tempted back into competition by McLaren in 1982, forging a relationship that lasted four years and delivered eight wins and a world title to go with the two he'd already won for Ferrari. He made his Formula One debut for the March team at the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix and picked up his first points in 1973 with a fifth-place finish for BRM in Belgium.

He was trapped in the burning vehicle for nearly a minute before being pulled out by other drivers who stopped to rescue him, risking their lives as their own fireproof racing suits were scorched by the intense heat. He retired for good in 1985 to devote his time to his very successful aviation endeavour.

Lauda founded a new airline, Niki, in 2003. He renamed it LaudaMotion, but then in another twist sold a majority stake in it to Ryanair two months later.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02: Birgit Lauda and Niki Lauda attends the "Rush" World Premiere at Odeon Leicester Square on September 2, 2013 in London, England.

He also had kidney transplants in 1997 and 2005.

Ferrari tabbed Lauda to help run its F1 team from 1993 until 2001, and he briefly ran Jaguar Formula One until 2002.

He is survived by his second wife, Brigit, and their twins, Max and Mia. He had two adult sons, Lukas and Mathias, from his first marriage.

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