Niki Lauda death: Legendary Formula 1 driver dies 'peacefully' aged 70

Katy Clifton
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Niki Lauda death: Legendary Formula 1 driver dies 'peacefully' aged 70

Niki Lauda death: Legendary Formula 1 driver dies 'peacefully' aged 70

Legendary Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda has died aged 70.

The former racing driver narrowly escaped death in 1976 when he was trapped in a fireball inferno after crashing at the 1976 German Grand Prix.

But the Austrian made a miracle recovery and went on to win two of his three world championship titles.

On Monday, Lauda's family said in a statement reported by the Austria Press Agency that he had "passed away peacefully".

His family said: "With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday.

F1 legend Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70 (Rex Features)

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

Austrian racing driver Niki Lauda has died, leaving the F1 world in mourning (AFP/Getty Images)

Just 40 days after he almost burnt to death at the wheel of his Ferrari, sustaining injuries so catastrophic he was read the last rites in hospital, Lauda returned to his Formula One cockpit.

"I got so upset because of this incident with the priest, that I put more effort into not dying," said Lauda, decades later.

Niki Lauda winning a Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 (Getty Images for Laureus)

The statement from his family added: "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."

Lauda, who won three world titles in 1975, 1977 and 1984 with Mercedes and Ferrari, died months after having a lung transplant.

Walter Klepetko, a doctor who carried out the transplant on Lauda in August last year at the Vienna General Hospital, said: "Niki Lauda has died. I have to confirm that."

Lauda twice underwent kidney transplants, receiving an organ donated by his brother in 1997 and a kidney donated by his girlfriend in 2005.

Niki Lauda during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix in 1977 (Getty Images)

Tributes are now pouring in for the Austrian, who was called a "legend" by British racing driver Jenson Button.

He tweeted: "A legend has left us. Rest in peace Niki."

Formula 1 racing team McLaren said it is "deeply saddened" to learn that Lauda has died.

The team said: "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."

Niki Lauda celebrates after winning the Marlboro British Grand Prix in 1982

Andretti Autosport wrote on Twitter: "We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Niki Lauda.

"He will forever be remembered as a legend, a friend, advocate for safety in our sport and much, much more.

"Niki will be missed deeply and our sincerest condolences are with his family and friends."