Niki Lauda, Austrian Formula 1 legend, dies at 70

Niki Lauda in 2017

Niki Lauda in 2017

On Monday, the Austrian triple world champion died at the age of 70 less than a year after receiving an emergency lung transplant.

"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.

Following his first Formula One world title in 1975, Lauda won two more times in 1977 and 1984.

On 1 August 1976, one year after winning his first title, he suffered third-degree burns to his head and face and inhaled toxic gases that damaged his lungs after his vehicle burst into flames at Nurburgring. While badly scarred and left with permanent breathing problems, he went on to win two more driver's titles to add to the one he had landed the year before the accident.

His rivalry with British driver James Hunt, the 1976 champion for McLaren, was intense and became the subject of the acclaimed 2013 film Rush.

Lauda underwent an emergency lung transplant in a Vienna hospital in August 2 a year ago after contracting an infection in his lungs, which were scarred and weakened by the effects of inhaling high-temperature smoke during the 1976 accident. He was born in 1949 and pursued a career in racing against the wishes of his family.

Remarkably he was back in a race auto just seven weeks later, his head swathed in bandages and oozing blood, as he made a last ditch attempt to defend his world title.

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An unsuccessful spell with Brabham prompted his retirement in 1979, upon which he turned his full attention to his airline, Lauda Air.

In 2012, he was made non-executive chairman of the Mercedes Formula 1 team, and was involved in the negotiation to bring Lewis Hamilton into the fold from McLaren; a partnership that has since yielded four world championships.

Lauda retired for good at the end of the 1985 season, stepping out of a racecar for the final time in Adelaide. In May 1991, a Lauda Air Boeing 767 crashed in Thailand after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally deployed during a climb, killing all 213 passengers and 10 crew. The Austrian took the title at the last round by just half a point.

The transactions solidified Lauda's reputation as a clever deal-maker, and Niki itself was profitable in an industry awash with money-losing companies.

He is also an airline entrepreneur and recently agreed to sell his controlling stake in Laudamotion to Ryanair.

Niki Lauda's death comes eight months after he underwent a lung transplant. It didn't give details. He also has two adult sons from his first marriage, Lukas and Mathias.

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