F1 legend Niki Lauda dies aged 70

Niki Lauda Mercedes Non Executive Chairman

F1 legend Niki Lauda dies aged 70

Lauda won the Formula One drivers' world championship three times, in 1975 and 1977 for Ferrari and in 1984 with McLaren, despite a bad race crash in 1976.

Arguably one of the finest drivers to grace the sport, undoubtedly one of its true characters and certainly among the very bravest, Lauda "passed away peacefully" on Monday, according to his family.

Lauda won first world championship with Ferrari in 1975, a year before he was badly burned when he crashed at the Nuerburgring during the German Grand Prix.

"His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are and will remain unforgettable", a statement from his family, published by Austrian media, said.

He took out another loan to get a drive with BRM in 1973 where he showed his pace alongside former Ferrari driver Clay Regazzoni.

'Niki will forever be in our hearts and enshrined in our history'.

He also received kidney transplants in 2005 and 1997. A year ago he bought back another airline he founded, Niki, after its new parent Air Berlin went bankrupt. Just days earlier, Lauda had said in an interview: "On the Nuerburgring, if your auto has a problem, you're 100 percent dead".

At the 1976 German Grand Prix, Lauda was trapped in a fireball inferno.

Besides their twins, a boy and a girl born in 2009, Lauda also had three other sons from previous relationships. It is a story that was told in the 2013 movie "Rush", directed by Ron Howard.

Lauda's first F1 victory came at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jarama in April, 1974, but he failed to finish a number of races that season, which prevented him from taking his first drivers' title.

"Rest in peace Niki Lauda", was posted on the official Formula 1 account. "At Monza, I was rigid with fear". He left Ferrari to join Brabham in 1978, but following a frustrating 1979 season that saw Lauda fail to finish all but two rounds, he retired and started his own airplane business. Niki picked up his third world championship trophy 1984 against teammate Alain Prost by just half a point.

Lauda was then asked by his old Ferrari boss Luca Montezemolo to act as an advisor in rebuilding Ferrari, although he departed soon after the new team manager Jean Todt took over.

Much to the surprise of many, including Hunt, Lauda returned to competition six weeks after the crash in Germany to continue his fight with Hunt over the championship.

He partnered with budget carrier Ryanair on Niki's successor, LaudaMotion.

"His passing leaves a void in Formula One", Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mercedes AMG Petronas named Lauda a non-executive chairman in 2012, and he was widely credited with bringing current F1 champion Lewis Hamilton to the team.

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