At a Formula One race at Germany’s race circuit Nürburgring in 1976, Austrian driver Niki Lauda suffered a crash that saw him pulled out from his car that was in flames.
Lauda, at the time the defending Formula One world champion, suffered severe burns and at one time a priest read his last rites as he lay in a coma.
He recovered however, and his inspiring comeback saw him nearly win that year’s Formula One championship. The next year, Lauda reclaimed his title, becoming F1 champion for the second time, driving a Scuderia Ferrari.
Overnight between May 20 and May 21, the Austrian Formula One legend breathed his last, his family confirmed. He was 70.
“With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday,” the family said in a statement, according to the Austrian press agency.
The statement, according to international media agencies, also paid tribute to the former three-time F1 world champion who won two titles with Ferrari and one with McLaren.
“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.”
Months earlier in August 2018, Lauda had undergone a successful lung transplant. He had also undergone kidney transplants in 1997 and 2005.
Resilient as ever, Lauda had traversed all that within his later years to become an astute businessman and influential voice within the sport of Formula One.
Holding a non-executive Chairman position at reigning champions team Mercedes GP since 2012, the Austrian is said to have been influential in bringing five-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton on board the silver arrows.
Tributes flowed in for the racing legend, with the Formula One twitter page saying, “Rest in peace Niki Lauda. Forever carried in our hearts, forever immortalised in our history.”
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. pic.twitter.com/olmnjDaefo
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 21, 2019
The Guardian described Niki Lauda in his heyday as being “an exceptional driver, brave and uncompromising but with fine judgement.”.
Born in 1949, the Austrian pursued a career in racing against the wishes of his family and even took out personal loans to ensure he would race in F1.
He won championships in 1975 and 1977 driving the red of Ferrari. He retired from the sport in 1979 but was back by 1982 with McLaren.
In 1984, he won his third Formula One title in the colours of McLaren.