Belfast Telegraph

Tributes pour in for a true legend of the motorsport world

Looking back: Niki Lauda (#1) drives his Ferrari behind March Swedish driver Ronnie Peterson at the Nurburgring race track during the German Formula One Grand Prix, a few moments before his nearly-fatal accident
Looking back: Niki Lauda (#1) drives his Ferrari behind March Swedish driver Ronnie Peterson at the Nurburgring race track during the German Formula One Grand Prix, a few moments before his nearly-fatal accident

By Staff Reporter

Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70.

The former racing driver "passed away peacefully", his family said, on Monday.

In August last year, he underwent a lung transplant that the Vienna General Hospital said was made necessary by a "serious lung illness."

The doctor that performed the transplant, Walter Klepetko, confirmed his death early yesterday morning.

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

The world of F1 has paid a glowing tribute to the Austrian star, who fought back from near death in 1976 to excel again at the sport.

Lewis Hamilton (F1 world champion): "My buddy, I am struggling to believe you are gone. I will miss our conversations, our laughs, the big hugs after winning races together. It's truly been an honour working alongside you over these past seven years. I wouldn't have even been in this team if it wasn't for you. God rest your soul. Thank you for being a bright light in my life."

John Watson (NI-born Grand Prix driver): "We didn't actually at the time appreciate the severity of the injury that he'd suffered. What was really more remarkable was the way... at the speed of his recovery and what he was able to achieve. Forty days after that accident he was racing at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and, for me, it's the most courageous act of any sportsman I've ever seen in my life. His health and his condition - for those that saw him at Monza - it was just remarkable."

Damon Hill (1996 world champion): "He was a remarkable individual in every way. I was certainly one person that looked at Niki and thought, 'I'll never be half the man he was'. His career was stylised and characterised by his intelligent approach."

Sir Jackie Stewart (Three-time world champion): "Niki had a degree of bravery that I had never seen the like of before. He will not go down as just one of the best drivers of all time, but one of the most courageous, too. Niki Lauda will be remembered forever."

Toto Wolff (Mercedes team principal): "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. Niki, you are quite simply 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."

Martin Brundle (Former racer and Sky Sports F1 commentator): "So many things have been going through my head this morning about how Niki reacted to Formula One and the gladiatorial way he went on to win three World Championships. I don't think he had the absolute speed of a Senna or a Schumacher, but he just got his head down, took on the best and beat them."

Jean Todt (FIA president ): "Niki Lauda was a hero of motorsport, who inspired me in my youth. He is a milestone in the history of F1."

Jenson Button (Former world champion): "A legend has left us. Rest in peace Niki."

McLaren Formula One: "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."

Nico Rosberg (Former world champion): "Thank you for everything that you did for me. I learned so much from you. Your passion, your fighting spirit, to never give up, your belief that you always meet twice in life, and even your patience with us youngsters. Myself and all of your 100 million fans around the world whom you also so strongly inspired to never give up in the hardest of times are thinking of you and your family."

Christian Horner (Red Bull team principal): "Rest in peace to an #F1 legend that I was lucky enough to call a friend. A very sad day for the entire motorsport community."

Max Verstappen (Red Bull driver): "He was a true legend in our sport and someone I had great respect for. May he rest in peace."

Felipe Massa (Former Ferrari and Williams driver): "Today, a big hero left us! Niki, you have been an inspiration for all of us."

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