Niki Lauda: Jenson Button leads tributes from F1 community after former world champion dies aged 70

The Austrian won the world title three times and narrowly escaped death in 1976 when his Ferrari crashed at the Nurburgring in Germany

Jack Rathborn@JackRathborn
Tuesday 21 May 2019 06:57
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Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas test out new Mercedes F1 car

Three-time world champion Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70 with the Formula 1 world paying tribute to the legendary driver.

The former racing driver “passed away peacefully”, with his family close by after he underwent kidney dialysis.

Tributes poured in for the Austrian, with fellow former world champion Jenson Button labelling him a “legend”.

Button said: “A legend has left us. Rest in peace Niki.”

McLaren Formula One team added: “All at McLaren are deeply saddened to learn that our friend, colleague and 1984 Formula 1 World Champion, Niki Lauda, has passed away.

“Niki will forever be in our hearts and enshrined in our history.”

His family added in their statement: “His unique successes as a sportsman and entrepreneur are and remain unforgettable.

“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 narrowly escaped death in 1976 when his Ferrari crashed at the Nurburgring in Germany. Despite the experience, Lauda supported the sport and the risk taken by each driver: ”A lot of people criticise Formula 1 as an unnecessary risk. But what would life be like if we only did what is necessary?”

Lauda would make a miraculous recovery despite horrific burns and finished second in the championship to James Hunt.

The rivalry between the pair was later made into a film starring Daniel Bruhl as Lauda and Chris Hemsworth as Hunt in 2013.

Ferrari announced it was a “sad day”, reiterating Lauda would remain “forever in their hearts”.

Lauda will be remembered as a legend

A statement read: “Today is a sad day for F1. The big family of Ferrari learns with deep sadness the news of the death of his friend Niki Lauda, three times world champion, two with the Scuderia (1975-1977). You will remain forever in our hearts and in those of the fans. #CiaoNiki”.

While F1 also released a touching statement: “Rest in peace Niki Lauda. Forever carried in our hearts, forever immortalised in our history. The motorsport community today mourns the devastating loss of a true legend. The thoughts of everyone at F1 are with his friends and family.

Former F1 drivers added to the condolences, with Romain Grosjean writing, “a legend is gone”. While Johnny Herbert paid tribute: “A real loss to Sport and a big hole in our hearts.

“Courageous, chatty, and extremely funny. I am going to miss you being around the F1 paddock but the legend of Niki Lauda will live on, because you were a very very special man. Thanks for all the memories.”

Niki Lauda takes a selfie with Nico Rosberg

He went on to win two of his three titles as well as becoming a prominent figure in the aviation industry.

In 1979 he left the sport to concentrate on setting up his airline, Lauda Air.

He briefly returned to racing following an offer from McLaren, winning the F1 drivers’ championship for a third time in 1984, before retiring for good the following year.

Lauda is survived by his second wife Birgit, and his children, Max, Mia, Mathias, Lukas and Christoph.

PA Sport contributed to this report

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