Ex-Formula 1 champion Niki Lauda was released from a hospital in Vienna in "good overall condition" following his emergency lung transplant. The racing veteran still suffers the effects of crashing his Ferrari in 1976.
Three-time F1 drivers' champion Niki Lauda left the Vienna hospital on Wednesday, nearly three months after developing a lung infection that prompted an emergency transplant.
The 69-year-old was in "good overall condition," the hospital said in a statement, adding that Lauda was still expected to spend weeks in "intensive" rehabilitation.
The Austrian-born Lauda first snatched the F1 drivers' title with Ferrari in 1975. Only a year later, he crashed at Germany's Nürburgring Nordschleife race and remained trapped in his burning car for 55 seconds, suffering burns and inhaling toxic fumes.
He made an astounding recovery to return to the track only 42 days later and finish the 1976 season second overall, behind British driver 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 having returned from retirement.
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 currently holds the title of the non-executive chairman for the Mercedes' F1 team, in which he is a shareholder.
As well as his distinctive facial scarring, Lauda's 1976 crash caused a number of long-term health issues, prompting two kidney transplants in 1997 and 2005.
Pulled back from the brink
In August this year, Lauda cut short his vacation on Ibiza and flew home to get treatment for lung inflammation. Doctors in Vienna decided to do an emergency lung transplant, saying that the driver's condition was "extremely critical."
"Without a transplant, life expectancy in such circumstances would be limited to days or weeks," the head of the Department of Thoracic Surgery, Walter Klepetko, said two days after the six-hour operation in the Vienna hospital.
"Considering the not very easy circumstances, we are very, very happy with the developments," he added.
Lauda's doctors are expected to hold a press conference on Thursday.
dj/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)