Niki Lauda, Monaco, 2018

Niki Lauda, three-times Formula 1 world champion, dies at 70

2019 F1 season

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The family of Niki Lauda has confirmed the three-times world champion died yesterday, nine months after a lung transplant operation.

Lauda won the world championship in 1975 and 1977 for Ferrari, and a final time in 1984 with McLaren, following a two-year break from the sport.

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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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 55 comments on “Niki Lauda, three-times Formula 1 world champion, dies at 70”

    1. A great driver and a great man passed away. RIP Niki

    2. Holy crap! Such a sad day when a legend passes away :(

      RIP my friend….

    3. Oh no! :'(

      RIP

    4. Such sad news to wake up to.

      A great man and he will be missed by many.

    5. I first knew his name taking Lauda Airline when I was a child, some 20-25 years back…

      RIP Niki Lauda

    6. Now I want to see Niki & James as the commentators..

      RIP..

    7. muz (@murray1964)
      21st May 2019, 6:17

      He was my childhood hero, so sad. R.I.P Niki.

    8. RIP Niki.

    9. Well said by Will Buxton —

      “I thought you were invincible.

      Farewell Niki”

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        21st May 2019, 12:39

        +1

    10. It is our duty and our honor to keep him alive in memory.
      And we shall never see his like again.
      And now his watch is ended.

    11. Really have no excuse for being mediocre when they’re men like Nikki Lauda that walked this earth

    12. Rest in piece – or have fun in the afterlife Niki.

    13. Sad. RIP.

    14. Rest In Peace, Niki.

      A rare breed indeed!

    15. BlackJackFan
      21st May 2019, 6:57

      Really sad news today… I have been waiting patiently for his return to the circuits but worried by the total absence of News – almost as if nobody cared…
      Is Niki the last of the true Legends to be taken from us…?
      At the moment I’m unable to think there are any more left…
      Really sad news today

      1. Moss is still alive isn’t he?

      2. also Stewart and Ickx

        1. Andretti, Scheckter, Murray Walker(non driver F1 legend).

          1. wouldn’t exactly put them in the same bracket personally, except Murray ‘Fantastic!’ Walker of course.

            1. BlackJackFan
              21st May 2019, 13:02

              MrBoerns – My god… I forgot Stirling… (grovel, grovel) and, Chaitanya I love the inclusion of Murray…
              But, the others…? Hmm, great drivers but… er… what was so special that made them legends / icons…? Well, maybe Andretti…

            2. How on Earth is Jackie Stewart not a True f1 Legend?

            3. Don frika del prima
              21st May 2019, 18:42

              Ickx was the original Mr le mans. That’s a legend/icon!

            4. BlackJackFan
              21st May 2019, 19:55

              Thanks, all, for the replies… I was always an admirer of Ickx but you guys are just adding names that you admire. I just think Lauda was, and will remain, a Legend.
              Some of these other guys are probably unknown to many fans under 30 and, in another 20 years will only be know to F1 fanatics.
              People like Fangio and Lauda, and a handful (or two) of others are/were something else… IMHO…

      3. Jackie Stewart is definitely one of those legions. Jackie retired in 1973 the year Niki was a rookie in F1. Jackie was the first F1 driver to push for safety in the sport and drove through the most dangerous years in F1 history and still won 3 WDC and 27 GPs which was a record only surpassed in the Prost/Senna era.

        1. BlackJackFan
          21st May 2019, 20:00

          Great driver, etc., etc… but not a ‘Legend’… (or a ‘legion’… ;-)
          Looks like I might have to write another series of articles: “Top 10 F1 Legends” – I bet that would have people chomping at the bit… ;-)

    16. What an awesome character.
      Insurmountable spirit.
      I don’t want to be saddened by his passing away, so I will just remember his bold personality and bravery.

    17. Will miss his presence in this world, he did a lot with his life.

    18. RIP. He was a true F1 Legend.

    19. My condolences to the family.

      RIP

    20. Such a shocking news. Was expecting him to be back in the paddock later in the season to be with the team. Recently always enjoyed his interviews with Ted immediately after the cheqeured flag.

      RIP Niki.

    21. His return to race at Monza 6 weeks after his accident was heroic and this is the right word without any exaggeration. Hero, Legend. Godspeed you.

    22. Yusha (@freebird78)
      21st May 2019, 7:51

      A great driver and ambassador of the sport. The F1 world will be poorer without you, Niki. Rest in peace.

    23. That was really sad news to wake up to this morning. Thought you spoke well on the radio Keith (and John).

      RIP Niki

    24. R.I.P. Champ! Say hello to James in heaven.

    25. Slowly we are losing the ones we admire when we were young. It’s just nature as i become older..

      Mr. Lauda rest in peace we will remember you!

    26. What a bloody Legend and an inspiration. A no nonsense straight shooter that went to hell & back and came out on top. RIP

    27. A true legend … RIP Niki.

    28. Josh (@canadianjosh)
      21st May 2019, 9:34

      Out of everyone in the paddock including the drivers he was probably my favourite to listen to in interviews. Especially after races where Lewis and Nico had gone at each other. Gonna miss him. RIP Niki Lauda.

    29. One of the greatest driver ever, yet probably even greater outside a racecar.
      He tshowed all of us (me for sure) the capital importance of making the most out of the time we have been gifted.
      RIP legend.

    30. This is very sad news. Farewell to an F1 legend. Paddock won’t be the same without you, Niki.

    31. Not many drivers would step back into an F1 car just six weeks after nearly burning to death. What’s more, he won two more championships when it could’ve quite easily been just the one. RIP Niki, one of the bravest F1 drivers of all time.

      1. @brickles Truly awe-inspiring that he made that return. Literally the (real) stuff of legends.

    32. RIP Niki, a true legend and inspiration for all of us.

    33. First Charlie and now Niki. Two legendary and influential long-time figures in F1.

    34. One of the greats. They don’t make them like this anymore. RIP

    35. Such a shocking news to wake up on, a true legend and an inspirational figures in the F1 world. He will be always remembered as a true hero. RIP Niki.

    36. rip legend!

    37. Montréalais (@)
      21st May 2019, 15:08

      What a sad shock to wake up to this morning! I, too, always forward to paddock interviews with Niki Lauda. He always seemed to be a stabilizing influence around the team. I will miss him. Rest in Peace, sir!

    38. Don frika del prima
      21st May 2019, 18:44

      One of my heroes. Sad news…

    39. Goodbye Niki. You will be missed by many.

    40. Tailwinds, Niki.

    41. the world and f1 is slightly more empty now

    42. francesco nicolardi
      23rd May 2019, 21:49

      I remember that eight years old boy, his dad was a teacher desperately trying to introduce his son to ‘proper’ books, the boy wasn’t interested. The boy finally asked for a book: ‘io e la corsa’ (‘ Art and Technicalities of Grand Prix Driving’ in english). He was fascinated by Niki’s pragmatic and efficient approach to a discipline too often sold as ‘gladiators’ sport’, label that seemed ludicrous and pathetic to that skeptical 8 years old boy. The boy’s passion for Formula 1 was linked to Niki’s career, from the accident to his return in 1976, then his retirement in 1979 and his comeback in 1982, his world championship win in 1984 and the final win at zandvoort 1985.
      He then followed his understudy Nelson Piquet who won 3 WDC. The boy’s deep interest in F1 started to fade with the disappointment at 2 World championships farcically won by drivers more determined to bump into opponents than racing them, some call this the ‘golden age’…

      That boy was me.

      I could have added a hundreds of narrative devices and aspirational/charming words but Niki would have hated it.

      RIP

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