Tears for 'true legend' Formula 1 great Lauda remembered for his courage and tireless zest for action

Sports | 22 May 2019

Legendary Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70, triggering an outpouring of praise for a man whose track victories and comeback from a horrific crash enthralled race fans worldwide.

Lauda died at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland on Monday night surrounded by his closest family members.

His death comes eight months after he underwent a lung transplant.

Walter Klepetko, who performed the lung transplant, said there was no specific cause of death.

"It was a long process ... Niki Lauda fought," he said. "He was a great man. But it has been clear for some time that we cannot bring him back to the 'race track'."

The family said that Lauda died peacefully, highlighting his "unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur ... his tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage."

Lauda won the F1 drivers' world championship three times, in 1975 and 1977 for Ferrari and in 1984 with McLaren, despite a terrible race crash in 1976.

Lauda had been non-executive chairman at Mercedes since 2012 and he was instrumental in bringing in Lewis Hamilton. Team principal Toto Wolff said Lauda was "irreplaceable" and that Mercedes had lost "a guiding light".

"Forever carried in our hearts, forever immortalized in our history. The motorsport community today mourns the devastating loss of a true legend," Formula 1 said on Twitter.

Lauda was born Andreas Nikolaus on February 22, 1949, in Vienna into an upper middle-class family, who did not share his passion for cars. In 1968, without telling his parents, Lauda won his first race with a Mini Racer he had bought with his grandmother's help.

Lauda suffered horrific injuries on August 1, 1976 when, having already won five races that season, his vehicle burst into flames on the Nurburgring in Germany. He had severe burns to his face and hands, and inhaled toxic fumes which damaged his lungs.

Despite being given the last rites in hospital he made an almost miraculous recovery to race again just six weeks later.

The next season, in 1977, Lauda went on to win his second F1 world championship with Ferrari.

Lauda quit F1 in 1979 to pursue his second passion, civil aviation. But he returned in 1982, with McLaren, and won the world championship again in 1984.


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