The family of Niki Lauda has confirmed the three-times world champion died yesterday, nine months after a lung transplant operation.
He was also leading the 1976 championship comfortably when he suffered a horrendous crash at the Nurburgring during the German Grand Prix. Lauda survived, but his enforced absence from several races handed the initiative to rival James Hunt, who won that year’s title. The story of their rivalry was told in the 2013 film Rush.
Lauda retired from driving for good at the end of 1985. A keen pilot, he founded and ran his own airline.
However the lure of Formula 1 remained strong and he returned to the sport in a series of managerial roles. These included at Ferrari in the early nineties, then with the Ford-owned Jaguar team a decade later.
His most successful such role came at Mercedes, where he helped encourage Lewis Hamilton to join the team in 2013. As a non-executive chairman, Lauda oversaw the team’s rise into the pre-eminent force in F1 today, winning five consecutive constructors’ championships and steering Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to five drivers’ titles.
Lauda’s health became a concern last year when he was admitted to hospital in an “extremely critical” condition. He underwent a lung transplant and spent over two months in hospital recuperating. He was readmitted to hospital earlier this year suffering from flu.
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