Currently reading: Formula 1 legend Niki Lauda dies aged 70
Three-time F1 world champion and non-executive chairman of Mercedes F1 “passed away peacefully”, his family said

Tributes have been paid to three-time Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda, who has died at the age of 70.

The Austrian underwent a double lung transplant last year, and was hospitalised with pneumonia earlier this year. In a statement to Austrian media, his family said: “With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday.

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

Ferrari, with which Lauda won two titles, tweeted that the Austrian would “remain forever in our hearts”.

Born in Vienna, Austria, Lauda initially started racing a Mini, to the disapproval of his wealthy family. He soon moved into the single-seater Formula Vee series, and also raced in sports cars. He took out a bank loan to secure a drive with March in Formula Two in 1971, and made his Formula 1 debut with the team in his home race that season. He drove full time for the team the following year, and after a season at BRM his career took off with a move to Ferrari for 1974.

Lauda claimed his first race win in Spain that year, adding a second in the Dutch Grand Prix. He missed out on the title, but dominated the following season in the Ferrari 312T, winning five races on his way to the world championship.

Lauda was leading the points midway through the following season when he crashed heavily in the German Grand Prix at the Nordschleife. He was saved by rival drivers who dragged him from his burning car but suffered third-degree burns to his head and face, and inhaled toxic gases that damaged his lungs. A priest delivered the last rites to him in hospital.

But Lauda survived, and amazingly returned to the sport 40 days later, having only missed two races, finishing a remarkable fourth in the Italian Grand Prix. He missed out to McLaren’s James Hunt in the title race by a single point. 

Lauda secured his second title the following season, but having fallen out with Enzo Ferrari quit the team and joined Brabham for 1978. He retired at the end of the following season, to focus on running his growing Lauda Air airline, but eventually returned to the sport with McLaren in 1982.

He won his third race back, and in 1984 edged team-mate Alain Prost by half a point to claim his third championship, before retiring again at the end of the following season.

After retirement, Lauda continued to run Lauda Air, while returning to the sport as an advisor to Ferrari, and later to run Jaguar Racing in 2001. He also worked as a TV analyst, before taking on a management role with Mercedes in 2012, helping to build the foundations for the team’s current dominance. Lauda played a key role in signing Lewis Hamilton.


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James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport,, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets. 

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Boris9119 22 May 2019

F1's Golden Era

Lauda, Hunt, few if any driver aids, shoestring budgets by todays standards, this was truly F1's Golden Era and Lauda was one of its stars. Not the same today is it? Fond memory's of a true geat. Fully expect fitting testimonials from Ferrari and Mercedes in the coming months. Not expecting them to prostitute themselves like McLaren has with the 'Senna'. 

FastRenaultFan 21 May 2019

A big loss

He was a great man and a great race. 


RI.P. Niki.


Probably up there having a drink with James Hunt now. 

david RS 21 May 2019