Motorsport legend, Niki Lauda, has died at aged 70.
One of the greats of Formula 1, Niki Lauda, has been an inspiration to motorsport fans for decades. Not only was he one of the best drivers to pilot racing cars, but his grit, determination and passion for motorsport have also motivated many youngsters to get involved in the sport.
With his passing, seven months after receiving a lung transplant, the world has poured heartfelt tributes to the legend. His influence was broad and deep, and the respect he commanded, beyond measure.
We are deeply saddened about the passing of Niki Lauda. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the Lauda Family.— Daimler AG (@Daimler) May 21, 2019
We will be forever grateful for Niki's immeasurable impact on both Motorsports and @MercedesAMGF1. #NikiLauda pic.twitter.com/jLH1hqinyQ
Very sorry to learn of Niki Lauda's death. The ultimate symbol of bravery in our sport and a wonderful man to talk to. Helped make Ferrari and Mercedes winners. Unsentimental - he swapped his #F1 trophies for car washes - but funny. Photo: @MSI_Images pic.twitter.com/C0KiVmzleM— James Allen (@Jamesallenonf1) May 21, 2019
In his early years, although his family disapproved or racing, Lauda financed his way through the ranks by taking out bank loans, which was an indicator of the determination he would show later in his career.
Born in Austria on 22 February 1949, Lauda made history as the only driver to win the Formula 1 championship with both Ferrari, in 1975 and 1977, and McLaren in 1984. He retired twice from driving, first in 1979 and then again in 1985. Lauda also consulted for Scuderia Ferrari before taking over as team manager for Jaguar Formula One, acted as non-executive chairman of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport where he was instrumental in getting Lewis Hamilton to join the firm, and as a German TV during Grand Prix weekends over the years.
Outside of motorsport, he founded a charter airline called Lauda Air which he ran until selling his shares to Austrian Airlines in 1999. Four years later, Niki founded low-cost airline, Lauder Air, which eventually merged with Air Berlin in 2011. After taking over the chartered airline, Amira Air, in 2016, he renamed it LaudaMotion, which ultimately took back the Niki Air brand when Air Berlin went insolvent in 2017.
Lauda will be remembered by most for the horrific accident during the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, after he urged the other drivers to boycott the race, citing safety concerns and lack of resources of the organisers to safely manage the 23-kilometre track.
As described on Wikipedia: "On 1 August 1976, during the second lap at the very fast left kink before Bergwerk, Lauda was involved in an accident where his Ferrari swerved off the track, hit an embankment, burst into flames, and made contact with Brett Lunger's Surtees-Ford car. Unlike Lunger, Lauda was trapped in the wreckage. Drivers Arturo Merzario, Lunger, Guy Edwards, and Harald Ertl arrived at the scene a few moments later but, before Merzario was able to pull Lauda from his car, he suffered severe burns to his head and inhaled hot toxic gases that damaged his lungs and blood.
"As Lauda was wearing a modified helmet because it didn't fit him properly (sic), the foam had compressed, and it slid off his head after the accident, leaving his face exposed to the fire. Although Lauda was conscious and able to stand immediately after the accident, he later lapsed into a coma."
In an unprecedented show of courage, Lauda was back behind the wheel just six weeks later, with bandages covering his fresh burns. He lost most of his ear and hair on the right side of his head, plus his eyebrows and eyelids. In incredible pain and, by his own admission, absolutely petrified, he challenged for the title that year, losing to James Hunt by half a point after retiring early from the rain-soaked Japanese Grand Prix.
The legendary Niki Lauda passed away in his sleep at age 70, on 20 May 2019 in a Swiss clinic after receiving dialysis treatment for his kidney problems.
He leaves behind two sons, Mathias and Lukas from his first wife, Marlene Knaus; Christoph, from an extra-marital affair; and twins, a boy and a girl with his second wife, Birgit Wetzinger.