BERLIN (AP) — Formula One great Niki Lauda, who won two of his world titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70.
Lauda’s family issued a statement saying the three-time world champion “passed away peacefully” on Monday, the Austria Press Agency reported.
Walter Klepetko, a doctor who performed a lung transplant on Lauda last year, said Tuesday: “Niki Lauda has died. I have to confirm that.”
“His unique successes as a sportsman and entrepreneur are and remain unforgettable,” the family statement said. “His tireless drive, his straightforwardness and his courage remain an example and standard for us all. Away from the public gaze he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather. We will miss him very much.”
Lauda won the F1 drivers’ championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren.
In 1976, he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix, but he made an astonishingly fast return to racing just six weeks later.
Lauda remained closely involved with the F1 circuit after retiring as a driver in 1985, and in recent years served as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team.
Formula One posted a message from its official Twitter account to acknowledge Lauda’s contribution to the sport.
“Rest in peace Niki Lauda. Forever carried in our hearts, forever immortalized in our history,” the post said.
Born on Feb. 22, 1949 into a wealthy Vienna family, Lauda was expected to follow his father into the paper-manufacturing industry, but instead fulfilled his dream of racing cars.