On Monday, the family of Niki Lauda confirmed that the Formula One legend passed away at the age of 70.
According to reports from Austria, the three-time world champion, whose famous rivalry with British F1 legend James Hunt inspired film Rush starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, passed away peacefully overnight on Monday, May 20, from complications following a lung transplant.
Eight months ago, Lauda first started showing signs of being ill while on vacation in Ibiza, and flew back to Vienna for treatment. As his situation worsened, doctors decided he would undergo a lung transplant, which kept him in hospital for more than two months.
His family put out the following statement: “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, he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather away from the public, and he will be missed.”
Lauda made his racing debut at the age of 22 for the March F1 team at the Austrian Grand Prix in 1971, and while he suffered a few terrible seasons, his career started to take off in 1973, after he signed with Ferrari. He he won his first Formula One world championship in 1975.
On August 1, 1976, the Austrian driver survived a devastating crash at the F1 German Grand Prix that left him with severe burns to his face, body and lungs. However, Lauda not only survived the now infamous accident at age 27, he came back to the sport, and won the world title the very next year. For those that are unfamiliar with the accident, below is the video of when he crashed his Ferrari 312T2 in Nürburgring.
Laude is largely considered to be one of sport’s greatest drivers of all time. He won his third world championship in 1984. The legendary racer is survived by his first wife, Marlene Knaus, whom he divorced in 1991, his second wife, Birgit Wetzinger, whom he married in 2008, along with his five children, Mathias, Christoph, Lukas, Max and Mia Lauda.