Three Times F1 World Champion Dies Aged 70
It was announced this morning, Tuesday 21st May 2019, that three time Formula 1 (F1) World Champion Niki Lauda has sadly passed away aged 70.
His on-track rivalry and off-track friendship with James Hunt, and later his wisdom and advice have been instrumental in shaping the sport into what it is today.
Lauda won his first World Championship with Ferrari in 1975, but the following year was involved in a crash that could easily have cost him his life.
At the dreaded Nurburgring, Lauda lost control of the car, hitting an embankment and subsequently bursting into flames. He was pulled out of the wreckage by his fellow drivers, but not before he suffered third degree burns to his head and face scarring him for life, and inhaling toxic gas which damaged his lungs.
Lauda was transported to hospital where he received his last rites, but watching track rival James Hunt gaining points in that year’s World Championship, encouraged him not to quit.
He went back to the paddock a mere 6 weeks later, where the F1 roadshow had hit Italy. Lauda came 4th in that race. This is also the first time he sported his red cap, and since that day the cap has become as iconic as the man.
Lauda won two World Championships with Ferrari (1975 and 1977) and one with McLaren (1984). He retired from the sport aged 36 in 1985.
He went onto pursue other interests outside of the motor sport world, becoming a pilot and a successful businessman, setting up two airlines – Niki and Lauda Air.
However, the lure of the paddock proved too strong, and after a couple of brief appearances in the 90s and early 00s, in 2012 he was appointed a non-executive director of the F1 team Mercedes. In this role, Niki played a part in signing Lewis Hamilton to the team.
Tributes have been flocking in for the F1 legend.
The official F1 Twitter channel said:
“Rest in peace Niki Lauda. Forever carved in our hearts, forever immortalised in our history. The motor sport community today mourns the loss of a true legend. The thoughts of F1 are with his family and friends.”
McLaren F1 commented:
“All at McLaren are deeply saddened to learn that our friend, colleague and 1984 Formula 1 World Champion, Niki Lauda, has passed away. Niki will forever be in our hearts and enshrined in our history. #RIPNiki“
Ted Kravtiz, a regular in the F1 paddock, said:
“Niki Lauda was one of a kind. To live through so much, to achieve so much and to do it with a twinkle in the eye, glinting under that red cap. He was different class – thoughts with his family, friends and colleagues. Remember him with a smile.”
Whilst Formula 1 World Champion, Jenson Button, simply stated:
“A legend has left us. Rest in peace Niki”