Austrian Formula 1 legend Niki Lauda has died aged 70 his family have announced.
With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday” Lauda’s family said in a statement.
“His tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain. 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.”
Amongst his many achievements the three-time Formula 1 world champion and winner of 25 Grand Prix will be remembered by many people for the crash in practice for the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nordschleife that almost killed him, and for his return to racing at the Italian Grand Prix just six weeks after he was given the last rights lying in a hospital bed in Germany.
That season he would also be involved in what was, for me, one of the most remarkable acts of bravery ever seen on a Grand Prix track.
It didn’t involve speed or danger, it was Lauda’s decision to retire his Ferrari at the season ending Japanese Grand Prix at Mount Fuji in which he could have sealed his third championship for Ferrari.
With the considerable weight of the sport, of Ferrari and of the watching world on his shoulders, Lauda, having so narrowly escaped death 90 days earlier, did what so many other Grand Prix drivers have failed to do and put his own self-preservation ahead of glory, knowing the result could be the end of his career.
When, despite Lauda’s (and those of others) protestations the race was started in treacherous conditions, at the end of lap one he drove his car into the pits to retire, and in doing so he handed his title over to James Hunt.
“My life is worth more than a title”.
And that is how Lauda lived his life. On and off the track he was principled, determined, he had an excellent sense of judgement, and he was a fine man.
For it he was universally respected.
In the half a century between Lauda’s Formula 1 debut and his passing, during which time he was an almost ubiquitous presence in one role or another, it could be argued that nobody else has done as much to shape the sport of Formula 1 as he did.
It is indeed a sad day.