Formula 1 legend Niki Lauda dies aged 70   

Three-time Formula 1 champion, Niki Lauda, died on Monday at 70 years of age. His family announced the sad news via an emotional press release. It seems that one of Lauda’s prescribed medications would have affected his kidney function to the point of needing dialysis at a Swiss clinic.



The health of the former Austrian champion began to deteriorate in 2018 when he had to undergo a lung transplant in his native Vienna followed by a long hospital stay.

Later on, at the beginning of 2019, he was hospitalized once more with the flu. Since then, Niki Lauda had kept away from the circuits where he had been a regular till then.



Lauda was Mercedes’ non-executive president, a firm with which he had a long and intimate relationship. He used to accompany Mercedes during every Grand Prix and was always seen shoulder to shoulder with team principal and CEO, Toto Wolff.



One of his greatest contributions to the team was the signing of Lewis Hamilton. A stellar addition to Mercedes which only someone with the magnetism and experience of Niki Lauda could have achieved. 

An everlasting legacy

Niki Lauda’s legacy in the world of Formula 1 goes well beyond his specific on and off-track achievements, as his career continues to inspire many contemporary drivers today.

He is one of the biggest names in the history of motorsports and one of the stars that will forever shine in the Olympus of the Formula1

Endowed with a unique talent and personality, he dominated the sport during the 70s and 80s, a time marked by the number of deaths on the asphalt. He won the hearts of the fans – and the respect of his rivals – after surviving a terrible accident in 1976.

His courage and ability to overcome his injuries in the aftermath of the accident turned him into a universal icon.

Lauda’s character was that of a motorsport hero. Over the years, the figure of such an extraordinary champion turned into a sports icon and a point of reference for later generations of drivers.

His successes in Formula 1

Lauda became a three-time world champion with the two most important teams of his time: Ferrari and McLaren. He was crowned in 1975 and 1977 with the team from Maranello and after a three-year absence, he returned to the sport only to conquer his third title with the Woking team in 1984. He took part in a total of 171 Formula 1 Grand Prix, achieving 25 victories, 54 podiums, 24 pole positions and 24 fastest laps.

The accident that turned him into a legend

Beyond his obvious Formula 1 success, Niki Lauda will always be remembered for having defeated death in 1976. On August the 1st that year he suffered a harrowing accident at the German Grand Prix in the old Nürburgring, famously nicknamed The Green Hell”.

After running off-track, his Ferrari 312T2 hit the protective barriers and returned to the track turned into a fireball. Moments later he was rammed by another car. 

Only the courageous help of four drivers and a steward, who risked their own lives to rescue him from the jumble of iron and flames, ripped him out of death’s grip.

His serious burns took him to the brink of death, so much so that he received the last sacraments at the hospital where he was admitted. Lauda, however, was not ready to give up yet and managed a remarkably courageous recovery.

His face and body, however, would always bear the scars of his accident to the point that legend has it, his wife fainted when the bandage was removed from his disfigured face.

Despite the immense pain, Lauda returned to the track only six weeks after the accident, at the Italian Grand Prix, to defend his crown against James Hunt. He achieved an incredible fifth place.

Still recovering from his wounds, the simple contact of his skin with the clothing and helmet caused unbearable pain. At the end of the race, the bandages covering his head were completely covered in blood.

James Hunt, one of his greatest rivals, would go on to win the championship that year. Despite his defeat, the Viennese driver was already a sports and media legend.

Two years later he got his second title with Ferrari and then had the audacity to leave the Maranello team, something that just wasn’t done at the time of the all-powerful Enzo Ferrari’s reign. He signed for Brabham for 1978 and 1979, the season in which he retired.

Another title after his absence

Lauda returned to the competition in 1982. He wanted to prove that despite his age and recent inactivity, he still had what it took to defeat the new generation of drivers. Nobody gave him any credit at the time … but they were wrong.

He persuaded McLaren’s sponsor, Marlboro, to allow him to join the British team next to Alain Prost. Both drivers would become one of the strongest ever couples in Formula 1.

It took only three races and the victory at the Grand Prix of the Western United States for Lauda to demonstrate he had been right all along. Two years later, in 1984, he would become a three-time world champion with just half a point over of his teammate Prost.

Aware that his time in Formula 1 had come to an end, he decided to retire for good when he was at the height of his sporting career. His last race was the 1985 Austrian Grand Prix. Lauda leaves a void that would be very difficult to fill. Rest in peace Niki. 

Images: Mercedes AMG F1.

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