Austrian Formula 1 legend Niki Lauda dies at 70
Niki Lauda speaks during an interview on the Hockenheimring in Hockenheim, Germany, Jul. 30, 2016. EPA-EFE/FILE/WOLFRAM KASTL
Airline operator and pilot Niki Lauda waves from the cockpit after a successful test flight with an A320 at the Salzburg airport, Austria, Apr. 18, 2010. EPA-EFE/FILE/BARBARA GINDL AUSTRIA OUT
Niki Lauda during a photo-op for the legends race at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, Jun. 21, 2014. EPA-EFE/FILE/HANS KLAUS TECHT
Austrian former Formula One driver Niki Lauda (R) and wife Birgit arrive at the Laureus Sport Awards in Berlin, Germany, Apr. 18, 2016. EPA-EFE/FILE/RAINER JENSEN GERMANY OUT
Vienna, May 21 (efe-epa).- Three-time Formula One champion and businessman, Austrian Niki Lauda, has passed away at the age of 70, his family announced Monday night.
"With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday, May 20, 2019," Lauda's family said in a statement.
Lauda, who turned 70 earlier this year, had undergone a lung transplant in Aug. 2018 which hospitalized him for several months. In January he had to be readmitted because of an influenza he contracted over Christmas in Ibiza, Spain, where the former pilot had his second residence.
"His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are and will remain unforgettable, his tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain a role model and a benchmark for all of us, he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather away from the public, and he will be missed," read the rest of the statement.
Lauda had already had two kidney transplants in 1997 and 2015, the second donated from his wife Birgit.
Lauda, who started racing Formula 1 in 1971, won his first World Championship in 1974 driving for Ferrari. Two years later he suffered severe burns to his face and body during a near fatal accident at the 1976 German Grand Prix on the Nurburgring, when he was trapped in his burning car.
Just six weeks later, he was racing again and managed to come second in the Championship, only one point behind Britain’s James Hunt. He retired from racing in 1977, when he was with the Brabham team, but returned in 1982 joining the McLaren team. His won his last title he won 1984 and the following year he withdrew from Formula 1.
In 1979 he started work on his own airline ‘Lauda Air’ which commenced operations in 1980. With the company starting to make losses Lauda resigned as chairman in 2000 and Austrian Airlines took over.
Lauda continued his involvement in motor sport first as an adviser to Ferrari (1992-1997) and later for Jaguar and Mercedes.
Lauda is survived by his second wife Birgit and their twin children Max and Mia. He also had two sons from his first marriage, Lukas and Mathias. Mathias is also a race car driver and his brother Lukas is his manager.