Formula One legend Niki Lauda dies at 70 | News | DW | 21.05.2019
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Formula One legend Niki Lauda dies at 70

Racing driver Niki Lauda, three-time Formula One champion, has passed away surrounded by family. His death has triggered an outpouring of praise for a man whose comeback from a horrific crash inspired F1 fans worldwide.

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Niki Lauda, a life in the fast lane

Austrian-born Niki Lauda, one of the greatest Formula One (F1) drivers of all time, has died at the age of 70, his family announced on Tuesday.  

"His unique successes as a sportsman and entrepreneur are and remain unforgettable. His tireless drive, his straightforwardness and his courage remain an example and standard for us all," a family statement read. 

"Away from the public gaze he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather. We will miss him very much."

Lauda struggled with health problems ever since his 1976 crash. The racing driver crashed his Ferrari car at Germany's Nürburgring Nordschleife race and remained trapped in the cockpit for 55 seconds, suffering burns and inhaling toxic fumes. 

As well as his distinctive facial scarring, Lauda's crash caused a number of long-term health issues, prompting two kidney transplants in 1997 and 2005. Last summer, Lauda developed a lung infection and was then forced to undergo an emergency lung transplant. He was hospitalized again in January this year with the flu. 

"It had been clear for some time that we would not be able to bring him back onto the 'race track'," said Walter Klepetko, the doctor who preformed the lung transplant last year. "There was no cause of death. It was a long process, and the patient departed at the end." 

Outporing of praise

The world of motorsport paid tribute to Niki Lauda. His former teams, McLaren and Ferrari, sent condolances to the Lauda family. "Today is a sad day for F1. The big Ferrari family learns with deep sadness the news of the death of their friend Niki Lauda," the racing car giant said on Twitter. 

"Your passion, your fighting spirit, to never give up, your belief that you always meet twice in life, and even your patience with us youngsters," wrote F1 world champion Nico Roseberg

Formula One driver for McLaren, Carlos Sainz described Lauda as "one of the last proper heroes of our sport, a true gentleman, and a great human." 

Niki Lauda in 1976 (picture-alliance/dpa/H. Reeh)

Niki Lauda, pictured here five weeks after his crash, managed to finish second in 1976

The legend of Lauda 

The Austrian-born Lauda first snatched the F1 drivers' title with Ferrari in 1975. After surviving the Nürburgring crash, he managed to recover and get back into the competition in just 42 days, finishing second behind UK's James Hunt. The Austrian won the championship again for Ferrari in 1977 and retired at the end of the 1979 season. However, he came back to the paddock in 1984, joining McLaren, and in 1985 became the sole driver ever to win an F1 title after having returned from retirement.

A movie starring Daniel Brühl as Lauda and Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt premiered in cinemas in 2013.

After his definitive retirement in 1985, Lauda made money as an entrepreneur, founding his own airline but later selling most of it to Ryanair. He also worked as a TV commentator and served as the non-executive chairman for the Mercedes' F1 team, of which he was a shareholder.

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