In Depth

Niki Lauda: F1 teams and drivers pay tribute to a ‘true legend’ of motor sport

Three-time world champion has passed away at the age of 70

Formula 1 is in mourning today following the death of legendary driver Niki Lauda. He was 70 years old.

The three-time F1 world champion underwent a lung transplant in August and his family announced that he had “passed away peacefully” on Monday. 

Lauda won the title with Ferrari in 1975 and 1977 and with McLaren in 1984. In its obituary Formula1.com praised the Austrian for staging “one of the greatest sporting comebacks in history”.

He was badly burned in a crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix but made a triumphant return to action just six weeks later and narrowly missed out on that season’s drivers’ championship.

After his career as an F1 driver Lauda became an airline entrepreneur, the BBC reports, and also held roles in F1 management. He also served as a non-executive chairman of Mercedes.

In a statement Lauda’s family said: “With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday.

“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.”

Lauda will also be remembered for his rivalry with British driver James Hunt. The battle between the duo was the subject of the 2013 film Rush.

Wolff: his passing leaves a void in F1

Toto Wolff, team principal of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, led the tributes to the team’s chairman.

“First of all, on behalf of the team and all at Mercedes, I wish to send our deepest condolences to Birgit, Niki’s children, his family and close friends,” said Wolff.

“Niki will always remain one of the greatest legends of our sport - he combined heroism, humanity and honesty inside and outside the cockpit.

“His passing leaves a void in Formula One. We haven’t just lost a hero who staged the most remarkable comeback ever seen, but also a man who brought precious clarity and candour to modern Formula One. He will be greatly missed as our voice of common sense.

“Our Mercedes team has also lost a guiding light. As a team-mate over the past six and a half years, Niki was always brutally honest - and utterly loyal. It was a privilege to count him among our team and moving to witness just how much it meant to him to be part of the team’s success.

“Niki, you are quite simple irreplaceable, there will never be another like you. It was our honour to call you our Chairman - and my privilege to call you my friend.”

 

Lauda’s lasting legacy

Andrew Benson, BBC Sport

“His life was one lived in Technicolor, and remarkable in its entirety. He was a singular personality, brusque and matter of fact, but with a wicked sense of humour and independent mind.”

Andrew van Leeuwen, Motorsport.com

“Lauda was a giant of the Formula 1 paddock for well over four decades. He debuted in 1971, won his first race in 1974 after joining Ferrari, and then claimed a maiden title in 1975.”

Paul Macdonald, GP Fans

“Lauda was a man whose courage in the face of adverse circumstances transcended the sport; the manner in which he battled back from his near-fatal incident in Germany in 1976, which left his body and face covered in third-degree burns, is testament to his lasting legacy.”

Ted Kravitz, Sky Sports F1

“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.”

Matt Bishop, journalist writing on Twitter

“I always thought he was somehow indestructible. I was wrong, for today we’ve learned of the extremely sad passing of one of the greatest #F1 drivers of all time. #RIPNikiLauda. He’d been unwell for a while, but I’ll always remember him like this: flying high, flat-out. #Godspeed.” 

How teams, drivers and officials reacted on Twitter

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