Niki Lauda: 1949-2019 21 | 05 | 2019

    THREE-TIME FORMULA 1 World Champion Niki Lauda has died, aged 70. The Austrian had been battling health issues since mid-last year, including a lung transplant in August. Following his two-month stay in hospital, Lauda was readmitted again for a short period at the beginning of 2019 after contracting flu. (Related: Hamilton dedicates 2019 Monaco win to Lauda)

    Overnight it was confirmed Lauda — most recently Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport chairman  —passed away on Monday, surrounded by family.

    "With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday," his family said in a statement issued to Austrian media.

    "His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are, and will remain unforgettable, his tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain.

    "A role model and a benchmark for all of us, he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather away from the public, and he will be missed."


    Toto Wolff, team principal of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, today paid tribute to his close friend, and colleague Lauda

    "First of all, on behalf of the team and all at Mercedes, I wish to send our deepest condolences to Birgit, Niki's children, his family and close friends,” Wolff said. "Niki will always remain one of the greatest legends of our sport — he combined heroism, humanity and honesty inside and outside the cockpit.

    "His passing leaves a void in Formula One. We haven't just lost a hero who staged the most remarkable comeback ever seen, but also a man who brought precious clarity and candour to modern Formula One. He will be greatly missed as our voice of common sense.


    "Our Mercedes team has also lost a guiding light. As a team-mate over the past six-and-a-half years, Niki was always brutally honest, and utterly loyal. It was a privilege to count him among our team and moving to witness just how much it meant to him to be part of the team's success. Whenever he walked the floor in Brackley and Brixworth, or delivered one of his famous motivational speeches, he brought an energy that nobody else could replicate.

    "Niki, you are quite simple irreplaceable, there will never be another like you. It was our honour to call you our Chairman, and my privilege to call you my friend."


    For more than four decades, Lauda was a giant of the Formula 1 paddock. Having made his grand prix debut in 1971, he won his first race in 1974 after joining Ferrari, and followed that up by claiming a maiden title in 1975.

    But it was the horrific, fiery crash at the Nurburgring the following season which left an indelible mark on him, and created his legend. Given the Last Rites after being hauled from the burning wreckage of his car, Lauda stunned the sport by returning to race again having missed just two grands prix.


    Badly scarred, and with much of his right ear destroyed, Lauda took the championship battle with the McLaren of James Hunt down to the final race at Mount Fuji in Japan. In treacherous conditions, as the circuit was battered by rainstorms, Lauda made the decision to stop midway through the race, stating the conditions were too dangerous. Hunt took third in the race, and claimed the title by just one point.


    A year later, Lauda claimed his second F1 world title with Ferrari before moving to Brabham for the 1978 season. That relationship lasted less than two seasons and Lauda retired from F1 midway through practice for the 1979 Canadian Grand Prix.


    Following a number of years building his budding air charter business in Austria, Lauda returned to race in F1 with McLaren in 1982. Two seasons later the Austrian sealed his third world championship when he beat team-mate Alain Prost by just half a point.

    Lauda retired for a second time in 1985 and began a consultant manager role at Ferrari in the Nineties. This was followed by becoming the team principal at Jaguar in 2001; the role only lasted a year.


    But it was in 2012 that he was to take up his final, and key role, as non-executive chairman at the Mercedes F1 team. Lauda played a crucial role in convincing Lewis Hamilton to walk away from McLaren, where he’d lifted the world championship, to join Mercedes.

    The rest, as they say, is history as Lauda — resplendent in his signature red baseball cap — oversaw Mercedes’ and Hamilton’s domination of the sport as they racked up multiple Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championships.


    Keep up-to-date with all the latest news by following us on

    Jim McGill


User Comments

Login or register to post comments.