Niki Lauda, three-time F1 champion, dies aged 70

F1 legend Niki Lauda – who won world titles in 1975, 1977 and 1984 – died "peacefully" on Monday, his family confirmed.

Former F1 driver and three-time world champion Niki Lauda.   -  Getty Images

Former Formula One driver and three-time world champion Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70.

F1 legend Lauda – who won world titles in 1975, 1977 and 1984 – died "peacefully" on Monday, his family confirmed.

Considered to be one of the greatest F1 drivers in history, Lauda won two championships with Ferrari and one during his time at McLaren.

"With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday," his family said in a statement.

"His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are and will remain unforgettable, his tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain.

"A role model and a benchmark for all of us, he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather away from the public, and he will be missed."

Lauda also worked in senior management roles within F1, including as non-executive chairman of Mercedes since 2012 and he played a key role in signing Lewis Hamilton.

"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," McLaren said via Twitter.

Lauda survived a near-fatal crash during the 1976 German Grand Prix at Nurburgring, where his Ferrari burst into flames. The Austrian was left with serve burns to his face, body and lungs.

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

Niki Lauda won the Formula One drivers' championship in 1977, a year after his horrific crash at the Nurburgring Grand Prix.   -  Getty Images

 

He missed only two races that season but was unable to hold off the challenge of Britain's James Hunt, who went on to claim his only world title.

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The rivalry between the two men -- which demonstrated the Austrian's extraordinary courage and fighting spirit -- was portrayed in the 2013 film “Rush” by American director Ron Howard.

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

He quit Formula One at the end of 1979 to pursue his second passion, civil aviation.

But he came back to the race circuit in 1982, this time with McLaren, and won his last world championship with them in 1984.

Lauda underwent an emergency lung transplant in a Vienna hospital in August 2 last 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.

READ | Formula One legend Niki Lauda undergoes successful lung transplant - hospital

Years before he had also received kidney transplants. When one failed, a second kidney was donated by his then-girlfriend Birgit Wetzinger, a former flight attendant, who he married in 2008.

Besides their twins, a boy and a girl born in 2009, Lauda also had three other sons from previous relationships.

(with inputs from AFP)