Formula One legend Niki Lauda has passed away aged 70. The three-time world champion was an icon of the sport, best remembered by fans for his recovery and come back after suffering serious burns in a crash in 1976. Lauda won the world championships for Ferrari in 1975 and 1977 and McLaren in 1984.
Everyone at Ferrari is deeply saddened at the news of the death of our dear friend Niki Lauda. He won two of his three world championships with us and will always be in our hearts and in those of all Ferrari fans. Our sincere condolences go to all his family and friends.#CiaoNiki pic.twitter.com/mbzZBNZiRZ— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) May 21, 2019
Lauda was born in Vienna in February 1949, he pursued a career as a racing driver despite disapproval from his wealthy industrialist family. Lauda cut contact with his family to follow his dream eventually being rewarded when he was asked to join the Ferrari team in 1974.
Massive crash barely slows down determined driver
In 1976, just weeks before the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, Lauda tried to get his fellow drivers to boycott the event over safety concerns. Lauda was especially concerned about the lack of fire safety at the track. He failed in his attempts and the race went ahead - but with disastrous consequences.
On August 1, 1976, during Lauda's second lap with his Ferrari swerved off the track hit an embankment, and burst into flames before making contact with, and Brett Lunger Surtees-Ford car. Lunger could escape but Lauda was trapped behind the wheel of the vehicle as it was engulfed in flames.
Lauda recovers despite horrific injuries
First to the scene where drivers Arturo Merzario, Lunger, Guy Edwards, and Harald Ertl. But before they could rescue their comrade Lauda severed serious burns to his head and inhaled poisons gases which damaged his lungs and blood. Despite being conscious as he was pulled from the car, he soon lapsed into a coma. Lauda suffered severe burns that cause him to lose much of his right ear, eyebrows, and eyelids.
He chose to limit his reconstructive surgery to his eyes so that his eyelids functioned but didn’t have plastic surgery to minimize the scarring. Instead, Laud almost exclusively wore a hat to cover the scarring using it as an opportunity for extra sponsorship.
Legend by racing greats
Lauda recovers quickly and with an intensely determined energy went back to racing quickly. His next years saw highs and lows that included leaving Ferrari for McClaren.
Lauda’s final Formula One Grand Prix drive was the inaugural Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide, South Australia in 1985.
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 pic.twitter.com/Ndd9ZEfm6B— McLaren (@McLarenF1) May 21, 2019
After retirement, Lauda made a career for himself as an aviator entrepreneur and as a manager for Ferrari. The iconic rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt was made into the 2013 film Rush. The world of motorsport has reacted to news of Lauda’s death with praise and sadness.