The racing legend Niki Lauda has passed away at the age of 70. He passed away Monday evening with his closest family members by his side.
“The motorsports world has lost its greatest fighter. The Mercedes family has lost an amazing mentor. And I have lost a true friend. Thanks Niki!” said Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Daimler AG and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Cars in a press release from Daimler.
“This is a very sad day for me, having been fortunate to have actually seen him race and also for all fans of Ferrari and Formula 1,” commented Ferrari Vice President, Piero Ferrari, in a press release from Ferrari. “Niki leaves us having suffered so much and that is painful for me. He won so much with Ferrari and with other teams too and he always remained a friend. He was a fantastic driver, an accomplished businessman and an amazing person. I will miss him.”
Niki was a three-time Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion, winning championships for both Ferrari (1975, 1977) and McLaren (1984). Between his ’75 and ’77 wins, a horrifying accident involving Lauda occurred during the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring.
In the aftermath of the crash, he only missed two races even though he suffered severe burns and lapsed into a coma. Niki still managed to place second in the 1976 World Driver’s Championship, one point behind James Hunt. He then went on to easily take the championship in 1977.
Niki Lauda was not only one of the greatest, if not the greatest, racing driver to have ever lived, but he was also courage personified. He survived a petrifying accident only to overcome his fears and push forward. Nothing could stop him.
Even after retiring from racing, he was appointed Non-Executive Chairman of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd. in 2012. The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team went on to win both the drivers’ and constructors’ Formula One World Championships five times between 2014 and 2018.
“Niki will always remain one of the greatest legends of our sport – he combined heroism, humanity and honesty inside and outside the cockpit,“ said Toto Wolff, Team Principal of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. “Niki, you are quite simply irreplaceable, there will never be another like you. It was our honor to call you our Chairman – and my privilege to call you my friend.”
Rest in Peace, Niki Lauda (1949-2019).
Featured Image via Daimler AG