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.

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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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Comments
14

21 May 2019

One of the F1 greats and a man of immense personal strength and indefatigable character. RIP Niki.

21 May 2019

  I knew he wasn’t well, but it’s still a shock, I’ll remember him as a gritty tough racing driver, a man who spoke his mind......

21 May 2019

Very sad news indeed. One of the sports true greats and a gritty and determined man at that. 

R.I.P. Niki.

21 May 2019

A true legend. R.I.P.

289

21 May 2019

...a tougher driver would be hard to find. Few would have endured the pain he did when returning so quickly to the Formula 1 circus after such a horrific accident.

A very technical driver and a clever businessman too. 

I will miss him.

21 May 2019

Thought he was a great driver, but never liked the man after he made disparaging comments about Damon Hill many years ago.  There was no need for it.  Hill was going through a tussle with Schumacher at the time, and it could be forgiven if it was critical encouragement, but it wasn't.

21 May 2019
Bazzer wrote:

Thought he was a great driver, but never liked the man after he made disparaging comments about Damon Hill many years ago.  There was no need for it.  Hill was going through a tussle with Schumacher at the time, and it could be forgiven if it was critical encouragement, but it wasn't.

. I know it’s not nice to undermine someone you followed when he was one of the top drivers, in with a chance of the title and all that,but, having read a few Books on Niki Laura and other F1 champions, I’d say they all had to be a bit selfish striving for their goal of being no.1 ,Champions,and I’m sure they in the heat of the moment said things they regretted later, but, life is too short to hold grudges, he was a guy in 1976 survived a horrible accident, not many had the fortitude, the strength to fight, to want to live and after six weeks climb back into a car that nearly killed him and drive through the pain, so, really, cut him some slack, think of his family at this time, 70 isn’t old these days, some of us are closer to that some.

289

21 May 2019

Quite right Peter....Damon Hill was a to**er anyway (unlike his Dad) and would never have won a championship if he hadnt been in the best car at the time, (likewise Jaque Villeneuve). Niki was spot on.

22 May 2019

 

Quite right Peter....Damon Hill was a to**er anyway (unlike his Dad) and would never have won a championship if he hadnt been in the best car at the time, (likewise Jaque Villeneuve). Niki was spot on.

**I would have to disagree with this about Damon Hill, yes he was hardly the greatest F1 driver and the best car isn't a guarantee of anybody becoming World Champion, Sebatien Vettel last season being a casing point!! But as Alan Jones once said, "you can't put Lester Piggott on a donkey and expect him to win The Derby***

21 May 2019

I'm always honest...like he was.  I say what I think, and I think he was a great driver (as I said), but I also think his comments on Hill were unnecessary (as I said).  I'm not going to sugar coat my words just because the man has died, and I'm not going to pretend I liked him as a person, just because he has died!  It is how it is.  I'm 60, and may well go early.  I don't care if people say disparaging things about me when I'm worm-food, as long as it's truthful.  That's all I ever ask.  There's SO MUCH dishonesty in this world in everything from paedophilia to politics.  Dishonesty sickens me.  Just be truthful.

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